The French celebrate Christmas on the evening of the 24th of December when ‘Père Noël’ leaves gifts for good children in shoes beneath the tree. Start with a champagne aperitif with nibbles or amuse bouches (literally nibbles that amuse the mouth).
Then the serious task of feasting commences. There are usually several (sometimes as many as four!) starters such as ‘boudin blanc’, a white sausage made with pork and truffles and served warm, gently browned in a pan of melted butter. Seafood platter, oysters, smoked salmon, scallops, or foie gras served with warm toast and chilled white sauterne are other favourite ‘entrées’.
Amazingly this comes before the guests tuck into the big bird Turkey, potatoes and vegetables are a classic in France too.
Cheese is served before dessert – a choice laid out on a platter to tempt (see our easy French Christmas Cheese Wreath recipe).
Obviously a little Calvados or Cognac rounds this off beautifully. Then it’s time to relax, sleep off the meal until noon when a hearty lunch of leftovers… awaits!
Le St Nicolas: A large biscuit in the shape of St Nicolas, iced in red and white. This appears in the baker’s shops from the end of November to celebrate the feast of Saint Nicolas on December the 6th. Heart shaped biscuits are also popular.
Le Craquelin: A twisted figure of 8 shaped pastry like a croissant which the locals dunk in hot chocolate (which some lace with a splash of Kirsch). This is a northern French speciality and you’ll find this delish pastry in patisseries in the Boulogne region. Craquelins are usually eaten warm for breakfast or afternoon tea.
Le pudding de Noël: A sort of plum pudding… now where could that idea come from?!
La Galette des Rois: It looks like a thick flaky pastry pancake and it always comes with a crown. On the first Sunday after New Year’s day the French celebrate Epiphany with a cake which hides a “bean” called a “feve”. Whoever finds the bean in his or her slice becomes King or Queen for the day and chooses a partner to reign with them! These days it’s no longer a bean but small porcelain or metal figure hides within the apple or almond filling. Want to make one at home? Here’s a recipe!