How to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in French?

Like many other countries, December is a month of celebration in France. Christmas and New Year’s Eve are the main festivities.


The Christmas festivities generally began at the end of the 24th of December ( which is not a holiday ). It is usually a family festivity where presents are given and people eat copious meals.

The Christmas tree, though it has been used since the XIIth century in Eastern France has only become a symbol of Christmas during the last century. Most families that celebrate Christmas have a tree ( a real one or a false one ) in their house accompanied by religious symbols or not depending on the family. Villages and cities are also decorated and offer various events to celebrate the end-of-the-year festivities. The most common event is the Christmas market. In France, the most famous market takes place in Strasbourg from the 28th of November to the 31st of December. Many smaller towns also have their market every year.

The 24th of December is usually a dinner lighter than on the morrow with immediate family and Catholics often participate in a midnight mass. French people often give their presents on the morning of the 25th after they put the gifts near their Christmas tree. However, some families do distribute their presents on Christmas Eve, after midnight. Families with children will generally prefer to give presents on the 25th according to the tradition that Father Christmas brought the gifts during the night.

French traditional Christmas meals involve three courses. The first can be foie gras, oysters or salmon. A Christmas turkey is the most popular main course but people also eat a goose for example. The desert is traditionally the Yule log.

The 25th of December is the long-awaited day for children when they can finally open their presents after waking up. It is a day with more protocol than the 24th with family and or friends coming for a long lunch. Chicken with chestnut puree, oysters, salmon, cheese and a dessert are very common. Champagne can be served with the first course and various wines are then served according to the dishes.

Some regions in France may also serve their own traditional dishes. For example, in the Provence region, the dessert may not be a Yule log but the “13 desserts” represent the apostles and Christ.

To say Merry Christmas in French, we say Joyeux Noël

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve or Saint Sylvester’s Day is often celebrated with friends. People usually await midnight of the 31st of December and wish each other a happy and prosperous new year as well as good health ( Bonne Année ! Bonne santé ! ). The tradition is to wait midnight before the exchanges of wishes and then people may announce their new resolutions for the coming year. The more festive people will then go outside in the streets to celebrate, yelling and shouting a Happy New Year to everyone. Each year in Paris, the Champs Elysée and the Eiffel Tower are crowded with people.

Saint Sylvester’s Day’s meal is similar to Christmas though many prefer a lighter dinner. Foie gras and oysters are some of my favourite dishes.

So to wish somebody a Happy New Year, in French we write and say

Bonne année et bonne santé !