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Dec 13

Festive season - So how do the French celebrate Christmas?

So how do the French celebrate Christmas?

In France, Christmas is a time for family and for generosity, marked by family reunions, gifts and chocolates for children, gifts for the poor, Midnight Mass, and le Réveillon.

We still arrange and meet with clients during December and over the holidays for property viewings in France, vendors still want to sell their house in France and you may have some time off work to visit France to look at some lovely French Houses BUT make sure you give us enough notice as it can be a busy period and of course most of our offices will have periods of closure over the festive period.

Christmas in France

The celebration of Christmas in France varies by region. As you would expect most regions celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, which is a bank holiday. However, in eastern and northern France, the Christmas season begins on 6 December, la fête de Saint Nicolas, and in some provinces la fête des Rois* is one the most important holidays of the Christmas season. In Lyon, 8 December is la Fête de lumières, when Lyonnais pay hommage to the virgin Mary by putting candles in their windows to light up the city.

*Epiphany (la fête des Rois) is usually celebrated the 6th of January, but in some places in France it is celebrated the first Sunday after January 1st.

French Christmas Traditions

French children put their shoes in front of the fireplace, in the hopes that Père Noël (aka Papa Noël) will fill them with gifts. Chocolate, fruit, nuts, and small toys will also be hung on the tree overnight. In some regions there's also Père Fouettard who gives out spankings to bad children (sort of the equivalent of Santa giving coal to the naughty). Pere Noel, like Santa, has a long, white beard, but wears a long, red robe that is trimmed with white fur and hooded. He is also portrayed as being thin, rather than fat.

AND shopping in France is as big an event as in the UK and eslewhere of course.

In 1962, a law was passed decreeing that all letters written to Santa would responded to with a postcard. When a class writes a letter, each student gets a response.

Le Réveillon

Reveillon is a huge traditional feast that takes place over the holiday season. It is eaten late at night, following Christmas Eve mass. What is served largely depends upon which area of the country you live in. This is probably one of the best reasons to visit France during Christmas. Although fewer and fewer French attend la Messe de Minuit on Christmas Eve, it is still an important part of Christmas for many families.

Le Réveillon is a symbolic awakening to the meaning of Christ's birth and is the culinary high point of the season, which may be enjoyed at home or in a restaurant or café that is open all night. Each region in France has its own traditional Christmas menu, with dishes like turkey, capon, goose, chicken, and boudin blanc (similar to white pudding). Examples of some the dishes served are oysters, pâté de foie gras, turkey, goose, salads, fruit, a Yule Log and, of course, wine.

Throughout the French Christmas season, there are special traditional desserts:

  • La bûche de Noël (Yule log) - A log-shaped cake made of chocolate and chestnuts. Representative of the special wood log burned from Christmas Eve to New Year's Day in the Périgord, which is a holdover from a pagan Gaul celebration.
  • Le pain calendeau (in southern France) - Christmas loaf, part of which is given to a poor person.
  • La Galette des Rois (on Epiphany) - round cake which is cut into pieces and distributed by a child, known as le petit roi or l'enfant soleil, hiding under the table. Whoever finds la fève - the charm hidden inside - is King or Queen and can choose a partner.

French Christmas Decorations

The sapin de Noël is the main decoration in homes, streets, shops, offices, and factories. The sapin de Noël appeared in Alsace in the 14th century, decorated with apples, paper flowers, and ribbons, and was introduced in France in 1837.

Another important aspect of French Christmas celebrations is the crèche filled with santons, which is displayed in churches and many homes. Living crèches in the form of plays and puppet shows based on the Nativity are commonly performed to teach the important ideas of Christianity and the Christmas celebration.

Mistletoe is hung above the door during the Christmas season to bring good fortune throughout the year.

After Réveillon, it's customary to leave a candle burning in case the Virgin Mary passes by.

Is that Carol singing?

Some traditional French Christmas carols include "Un Flambeau", "Petit Papa Noel", "La Marche des rois", "Venez Divin Messie", "Nouelle Agreable" and "C'est la jour de la Noel."

Blog submitted by: David at Cle France.

2 CommentsViews: 2201
Dec 13

Christmas & Winter Traditions: Marché de Noel

One thing in common, that I love, about the various places I have lived in France over the years are the winter markets. They are smaller, larger, bigger and better in the varying regions of France but the one thing they all have is bundles of Christmas spirit and a sense of community, even though some of the stall holders travel the country to different markets; all the 'locals' visit the town square and share du vin chaud under des illuminations de Noel (Christmas lights).

If you are planning a viewing trip in December be sure to not only visit many nice french houses for sale, take time off and soak up the atmosphere at one of the local French winter markets.

Christmas Winter Markets in France

Photo by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra on Flickr

In many pays européens (European countries) December brings les marchés de Noel (Christmas markets). These marchés are a special seasonal affaire that last all too short, but provide a nice traditional atmosphere right in the middle of town.

The tradition originally comes from l’Europe centrale (Central Europe), and as such, the most famous marchés de Noel se trouve en Alsace (are found in Alsace). But there are well known marchés all throughout France.

Dans un marché de Noel you can buy all kinds of jouets (toys) and other petits cadeaux (small gifts), or for those older kids in the crowd, du vin chaud (mulled wine). The traditional shops line the streets, creating an outdoor shopping experience, a real winter wonderland.

While enjoying du vin chaud under des illuminations de Noel (Christmas lights), you might even catch un spectacle (a performance) or two. All in all, se promener dans (taking a walk in) un marché de Noel is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit.

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Blog submitted by: David at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

Add CommentViews: 1199
Nov 19

Shopping for Wine in France

Before we first moved to France we would talk about moving to Paris, but then thought about getting a new job or a move to a city like Bordeaux, if you are going to buy a property in France why not buy one in a wine region?

In France, les vignerons (vintners, or winemakers) sell directly to stores and restaurants in France, as well as for exportation. In The UK and non-major wine production countries, there is a more complicated three-tier system where foreign wine is bought by importers, then distributed, and then sold for retail.

Cle France wine blog

In France, wine is sold not only in wine stores (called les cavistes, which literally means 'cellermen'), but also in grocery stores like Monoprix, Franprix, and Carrefour. In larger grocery stores, there may even be an expert in wine who you can consult about what wines to purchase. However, if you really want specialised advice about wine, your best bet is to go to the caviste.

In Paris, the most well-known chain of wine stores is Nicholas. You’ll see this store in most neighbourhoods. There are also other, individually-owned wine stores that have excellent selections and fair prices.

But, if you are selecting wine on your own, keep the following tips in mind:

1. You won’t find much foreign wine in France, but you will find wine from many French regions you’ve never heard of before. Explore French wine by focusing on a particular region,like Languedoc-Roussillion or Burgundy and then trying different wines from that region to discover which you like the best. When looking at wine labels, keep in mind that 'grand cru' is the highest-quality of vineyard or area in a particular region, followed by 'premier cru' and 'grand vin' is the label each winemaker gives to its best wine.

2. Wine in France is much cheaper than in the UK because it does not go through the three-tier distribution system described above and because it is not as heavily taxed. You can find a decent bottle of wine for under 5 euros and a very good bottle of wine for 10 euros and under. Price does matter, however; if you want to get an enjoyable wine, spring for an 7 or 8 euro bottle of wine rather than one that costs 2 euros or less. Your palate will thank you.

3. If you are in a winemaking region, choose a bottle of wine made in that region. Normally, the wine stores and grocery stores stock more product from their own region and, thus, you will have a larger (and often times better) selection than if you choose wine from a different region.

À votre sante! and drink responsibily!

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages. 

Add CommentViews: 568
Nov 18

France’s Wine Regions and Terroir

One of the best (and most fun!) ways of getting to know France is through learning about its terroirs. Terroir is a French loanword in English that you might already be familiar with — especially if you are an oenophile — that loosely translates to a “sense of place”. In other words, terroir is the special characteristics of a particular place that allows it to produce agricultural products like wine, cheese, tea, coffee, etc.

Of course, the term terroir isn’t only applicable to France. But France’s various terroirs are so distinct from one another and so culturally rich that understanding all of its geographical and agricultural diversity will only make you fall more in love with the country.

French Wine, Cle France

Image From Uncalno Tekno at 

So today, I’ll be taking you on an introductory tour of some of the most important terroirs in France. And, as an oenophile myself, we will be focusing on the different appellations, or controlled regions, for wine production.

1. Languedoc and Roussillon

These two beautiful regions are on the Mediterranean coast and extend down to the border between France and Spain. Languedoc and Roussillon have been important winemaking centers for centuries, and the region has three times the area of vineyards in Bordeaux! In fact, there is evidence of grapevines in the region that date to the prehistoric era. This region is most famous for its reds and rosés and Roussillon in particular is known for its fortified sweet wines from areas such as Rivesaltes and Banyuls.

Property for sale in Languedoc Roussillon

2. Alsace

Unlike in most other regions in France, wines made in Alsace (on France’s eastern border with Germany) do have the grape on the label rather than just the region. The most famous grapes in the region are Muscat, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurtztraminer. Most of the grapes grown in this region are white, although there is some delicious Pinot Noir.

Property for sale near the Alsace region

3. Rhone

This region is situated in the Rhone River valley in southern France and is divided into the Northern Rhône and the Southern Rhone. Syrah is the grape of choice in the Northern Rhone, while the sunny Southern Rhone section is more about blends of grapes, usually including Grenache. If you’ve heard of the appellations Châteauneuf-du-Pape or Hermitage, these are both in the Rhone region.

Property for sale in Rhone Alpes

4. Champagne

Need I say more? Not all sparkling wine is Champagne, only the sparkling wine produced in the region of Champagne in the northeast of France. Winemakers in this region use the traditional method, called la methode champenoise, that is pretty labor intense and uses two fermentation processes to create delicious Champagne.

Property for sale near Champagne

5. Loire

The Loire region follows the Loire River from Nantes on the Atlantic coast to Orléans in northcentral France. Near Nantes, Muscadet is the star of the show, a refreshing white wine. The Central Vineyards of the region are known for their Sauvignon Blanc and Sancerre is the most well-known and expensive appellation in the region.

Property for sale in Pays de la Loire

6. Burgundy

To make it simple: “Red Burgundy” means Pinot Noir and “White Burgundy” means Chardonnay. Burgundy has had vineyards for centuries and the label on a bottle of Burgundy is inextricably linked with a particular piece of land in the region. This means that the land is split up into tiny parcels, owned by separate producers, and that this is reflected in the various labels of Burgundy.

Property for sale in Burgundy

7. Bordeaux

Did I save the best for last? Perhaps. The Bordeaux region  is known for producing the fanciest, most expensive, and (yes) most tasty wines in France (although this is debatable to some!). Why? Because Bordeaux first started classifying its wine estates in the region back in 1855 and all “growths” are tied back to this historical moment. This means that the grapevines in Burgundy are old…and expensive. Wine from Bordeaux is almost always made of blends of grapes including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec.

Property for sale in Bordeaux region

"Be a champion, Drink Responsibly"

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

This blog was originally posted on The French Language Blog pages.

Add CommentViews: 439
Jul 12

Happy Bastille Day

We at Cle France are still working ergh! but... Happy Bastille Day to everyone for this weekend!

Happy Bastille day from Cle France

What do people do on Bastille day?

Many people attend large-scale public celebrations. These often include:

Military and civilian parades.

Musical performances.

Communal meals.



Spectacular fireworks displays.

There is a large military parade in Paris in the morning of July 14. Service men and women from various units, including cadets from military schools, the French Navy and the French Foreign Legion, participate in the parade. The parade ends with the Paris Fire Brigade. Military aircraft fly over the parade route during the parade. The French president opens the parade and reviews the troops and thousands of people line the route. Other people spend the day quietly and eat a celebratory meal or picnic with family and close friends.

Some Helpful french phrases.

Cette semaine on fête le 14 juillet ou la fête nationale or Bastille Day as it’s known in English speaking countries. Le 14 juillet is something like la version française (the French version) of the fourth of July.

Pendant le 14 juillet there are a few big celebrations: le défilé militaire (the military parade) during the day and then at night les spectacle de feux d’artifice (the fireworks shows). However, cette semaine (this week) I learned something about les feux d’artifice that I didn’t know before.

Au 13 juillet, while at home I suddenly heard the loud bangs des feux d’artifice going off in the distance. I thought I’d missed le spectacle!

It turns out that les spectacles de feux d’artifice are spread out over a few days. Smaller towns have their spectacles earlier so that everyone is sure to come to the bigger cities during la fête nationale.

One other way to fêter (celebrate) is, bien sûr, to have a good time avec tes amis (with your friends). Just be careful, if you have too much fun you might wake up the next day with la gueule de bois (a hangover)!

Voici un petit vocabulaire de feux d’artifice :

Black snakePharaoh’s serpent le serpent du pharaon

Bottle - rocket la fusée

Firecrackerle pétard

Fireworkle feu d’artifice

Fireworks showle spectacle de feux d’artifice

Fountainla fontaine

Roman candlela chandelle romaine

Sparkler - le cierge magique

Public life

Bastille Day is a public holiday in France so post offices, banks, and many businesses are closed. Restaurants and cafes outside of tourist areas may also be closed. However, bakeries and some stores in Paris, as well as at airports and railway stations and along major highways, are open.

Public transport service schedules vary depending on where one lives and intends to travel. Roads in the centres of villages, towns and cities (particularly in Paris) may be closed for parades and other large public events.


The Bastille is a medieval fortress and prison in Paris. Many people in France associated it with the harsh rule of the Bourbon monarchy in the late 1700s. On July 14, 1789, troops stormed the Bastille. This was a pivotal event at the beginning of the French Revolution. Fête de la Fédération was held on July 14, 1790. This was a way to celebrate the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in France.

Official celebrations were held in Paris on June 30, 1878, to honour the Republic of France. On July 14, 1879, more official celebrations were held. These included a military review in Longchamp near Paris and celebrations all over the country. A politician named Benjamin Raspail proposed that July 14 should become a holiday in France in 1880. The law was enacted on July 6, 1880. Bastille Day was a public holiday for the first time on July 14, 1880.

The military parade in Paris has been held every year since 1880, except during World War II. The Free French Forces paraded on this date in London, England from 1940 until 1944. Jean Michel Jarre held a concert in Paris that attracted one million people, then the largest recorded crowd at an outdoor concert, in 1979. Special celebrations were held for the 200th anniversary of the French revolution in 1989. The French football team became world champions on July 12, 1998. This sparked celebrations throughout France on Bastille Day.

Bastille Day celebrations are held in French communities and the Institut de France around the world. Such events in the United States are held in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle. There are festivals of French culture in Franschhoek, South Africa, and Hungary.


The Eiffel Tower in Paris and the French national flag, or tricolour, are important symbols of Bastille Day. The French national flag is one-and-a-half times as wide as it is tall. It consists of three vertical bands of equal width coloured blue, white and red. The same colours are displayed in bunting and banners of many shapes on Bastille Day. People may also wear clothing or face paint in these colours.

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Blog submitted by: Alex at The French Property Network - Cle France.

Add CommentViews: 984

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