Christmas in the Foothills


Christmas in rural France is a more low-key and less commercial than in many parts of the world and is based mainly around food, family and festive traditions.

The main Christmas meal is Le Réveillon de Noël and this is eaten on Christmas Eve around midnight to celebrate the very beginning of Christmas Day. The meal typically consists of French favorites like oysters, foie gras and smoked salmon, followed by some kind of roast meats (often a capon) with Buche de Noël for pudding. Needless to say, it is also French tradition to wash down the meal with plenty of wine and Champagne.

Rather than hanging stockings by the fire, children in France leave their shoes on the hearth in the hopes that Santa will fill them with gifts and goodies overnight. It is traditional to hang mistletoe in French homes during the Christmas season but because the festive plant is considered to be a symbol of good luck rather than an invitation to get amorous, so if you offer a kiss under the mistletoe, you might get some funny looks.

Traditional Christmas markets (marchés de Noël) pop up in December in towns and villages all over France offering an array of handmade crafts, artisanal goods, and festive treats like roasted chestnuts and vin chaud, the smell of which is the predominant scent of a Christmas here in the foothills.

Holiday feasting continues into January with la Fête des Rois. December 1 is the start of the Christmas season in France and Epiphany, which is observed on January 6 and known as Three Kings Day, marks its end. Although la Fête des Rois is not a national holiday, it is still widely celebrated in schools and workplaces with a namesake cake (galette des rois or king cake) made from flaky pastry and almond paste. Per the tradition, a tiny figurine is baked into every cake and the person who is served the slice with the hidden treasure is crowned King or Queen for a day.

Best of all, when you live within sight of the Pyrenees, Christmas also means the chance to head up to find some snow either for a bit of sledging, skiing, a snowy walk or simply to picnic with some mulled wine and enjoy the blue sky, sunshine, and winter warmth we are so lucky to get predominantly at this time of the year.

If you would like some advice and help in finding your perfect house in the foothills in 2024, please get in touch:

Wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year



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