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French New Year - Le Jour de l'An

Learn about some French New Year's traditions and customs


New Year's in France
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In France, New Year's Eve (31 December) is called la Saint-Sylvestre* and is usually celebrated with a feast, called le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre. The feast tends to include special items like champagne and foie gras, and the accompanying party can range from an intimate dinner with friends to une soirée dansante (ball).

At midnight, everyone kisses under the mistletoe** and offers their best wishes for the new year.

On New Year's Day, le Jour de l'An, friends and family share their New Year's resolutions and may also exchange cards and gifts.

The end of the holiday season is Epiphany, on 6 January, which in France includes a traditional cake called la galette des rois.

*Saint Sylvestre was Pope from 314 to 335 A.D., during the time of Constantine the Great. There is no particular link between Saint Sylvestre and the new year; it just so happens that 31 December is his feast day. La Saint-Sylvestre is feminine because it's short for la fête de Saint-Sylvestre.

**Interestingly, kissing under the mistletoe is a New Year's custom in France, rather than a Christmas custom as in other countries. Note that the kissing may be on the lips or on the cheek, depending on the relationship between the two people.


French New Year's Vocabulary
Bonne Année ! Happy New Year!
Bonne année et bonne santé ! Happy New Year!
une bonne résolution New Year's resolution
les étrennes New Year's gifts
la gueule de bois hangover
le gui mistletoe
le Jour de l'An New Year's Day
la Saint-Sylvestre New Year's Eve
French New Year's Songs
Chanson du nouvel An
Choral des Adieux (Auld Lang Syne)
Toast pour le nouvel An
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