As with many people across the world, the Christmas tree (le sapin de NoÃ«l) takes pride of place at Christmastide in French homes, schools, businesses, and factories.
The first Christmas tree in France is said to have been put up in Alsace in the 1521Â but it took another 300 years before it became popular with rest of the country. In 1837, Helene of Mecklenburg married King Louis Philippe I’s eldest son, Ferdinand Philippe, Duke of OrlÃ©ans, and brought with her from her native Germany, the tradition of Christmas trees, bedecked with paper flowers, ribbons, and apples.
In addition to Christmas trees, in French homes and churches, particularly in Provence, you are likely to see Nativity cribs, known as crÃ¨ches. These range from the subtle to the extravagant, sometimes portraying the entire village, and with music and lights too. Some are even animated. In some regions of France, there are living crÃ¨ches as well, where people (and sometimes puppets) perform plays based on the Nativity.
Mistletoe is another important part of Christmas decoration, and is hung above doorways in order to ensure good luck for the coming year. In some regions, however, you will not see it as it considered to be bring bad luck.
Candles are an essential element of Christmas, and on Christmas Eve, you will see them burning in the windows of houses and churches in order to light the way for the Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus as they pass by.
How do you decorate your home at Christmas?0