Seven Typical French Traditions and Holidays

Les Anniversaires (Birthdays)

A French birthday celebration is not much different to those in the English speaking world. Friends and relatives wish the birthday person ‘Happy Birthday’ and children usually organize a party to which they invite tier friends. The birthday girl or boy receives gifts and blows out the candles on the birthday cake.

La Fête des Mères et la Fête des Pères (Mother’s Day and Father’s Day)

Mother’s Day, is also celebrated in May, and Father’s Day in June, but not the same date as in other countries. This is an occasion for a family meal and offering gifts to parents and grandparents.

La Fête des Rois (The Feast of the Three Kings)

The French celebrate this feast more ceremoniously than English speaking people do. This is a religious festival which takes place on January 6 and marks the visit of the three kings to the infant Jesus in the manger. There are usually church services held for this celebration. Among the French and also the Spanish community, the celebration goes a bit further with music and dancing.

In France there is the special cake called a galette des Rois. This is a traditional cake which differs according to the region. However the similarity in them all is that there is a small ceramic object about the size of a pebble hidden within the cake. This object is called une fève. The person who finds the fève in his piece of cake, puts on a golden paper crown, and is the king or queen of the party for that evening.

Le Carnaval (Carnival)

The French like many other nationalities celebrate carnival. Their celebrations usually take place in January or February, and are celebrated according to the region. The carnival in Nice is the most popular one in France. Mardi-Gras or Fat Tuesday is the final day of Carnival before Ash Wednesday, like most English speaking countires.Unlike the English speaking countries however, where Ash Wednesday is a day of solemnity and church services, there is a notable difference in the French Caribbean speaking islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. The celebration continues on Ash Wednesday when crowds of masqueraders continue to parade and burn the King of Carnival of Vaval at the end of the day.

À la Chandeleur

This a typically French celebration held on February 2nd. where crêpes are eaten. The French invite each other to crêpe parties. You hold a coin in one hand and try to flip the crepe singlehandedly. If the crepe lands perfectly in the pan, you are expected to enjoy. good fortune the rest of the year. It is really a religious day.

Le Noël (Christmas)

This is traditional family affair’s Christmas Eve celebration called le réveillon. It starts around 11p.m on the 24th of December (after the midnight mass for Catholics).

Le Réveillon du Jour de L’an (New Year’s Eve)

This is less of a family celebration. Celebrations like in the English speaking countries are held among friends at restaurants or nightclubs. People attend dance parties and at midnight wish each other Happy New Year. On New Year’s Day people distribute money to children and service people like the cleaning woman,the caretaker of the apartment, and the postman. These sums of money are called les étrennes.