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Christmas Decorations

Christmas decorations are important in France since December is the middle of Winter, when the only trees that bear leaves are the evergreens, and few flowers are in blossom because of the cold.

Decorations are used everywhere, in the streets, in homes, in shop windows, in school... they bring colour and cheerfulness to the cold, and often grey Winter environment. This page is about some of the traditional items used as decorations.

street decorations   Street decorations in France are on another page. Stars decorate this street in Vichy.

Le sapin de Noël - Christmas Tree

In France, one of the most important decorations at Christmas time is the Sapin de Noël (Christmas tree). It is used in homes, streets, shops, offices, and factories.

The idea of the Christmas came from Alsace in the 14th century. In those days, people decorated Christmas trees with apples, paper flowers, and ribbons. Alsace was then part of the German empire, but now it is a province in France.

Strasbourg
This tree forms the centrepiece of the main square in Strasbourg.

The Sapin de Noël was introduced to France by a German Princess called Hélène de Mecklembourg. She brought one to Paris after her marriage to the French heir to the throne, the Duke of Orléans. The Christmas tree symbolizes what creation has to offer: light and the movement of angels, the gifts of the orchards and fields, forests and sea, all topped off by the star that points to Heaven.

Le houx - Holly La Lierre - Ivy

These both bear leaves and, in the case of holly, glowing red berries during the Winter. They are easy to find in the countryside, and often grow in peoples' back yards. When picked and taken inside the house, they remain fresh looking for some time, so they have become part of the set of decorations that are used over the Christmas season.

holly ivy
Holly - le houx
Ivy - la lierre

Tradition says that holly owes its importance to the services it gave to the Holy Family. In order to escape from King Herod's massacre of the Infants, Mary and Joseph left for Egypt with the baby Jesus. Miracles helped them on their way: escorted by lions, wolves and leopards, the blessed Family traveled in safety. The palm trees offered their fruit as food. When Herod's soldiers approached, the holly tree stretched out its branches to hide Mary, Joseph and the Holy Child. To thank the holly tree, Mary declared that it would remain evergreen, as a symbol of immortality.

Tradition also says that in order to have a prosperous year, you have to decorate the house with holly at Christmas!

mistletoe in trees  

Le gui - misteltoe.

Misteltoe grows at the top of trees, easy to wee in Winter, but difficult to access! The ancient Christmas custom is that a man and woman who meet under the mistletoe should kiss.

 

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Christmas in France Home Page

A "grand repas" at Christmas

 

     
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