On these last day of 2016, many are getting ready for New Year’s Eve celebrations all around the world. So how do people In France celebrate the New Year? Let’s explore a few New Year’s Eve traditions in France:
Whereas Christmas is mostly celebrated with family members, in France, New Year’s Eve also called “La Saint Sylvestre” is generally celebrated with friends, or even with strangers at “soirées” either at people’s homes or specially reserved places, all around the country. Celebrations are even taking place in the streets, under the Eiffel Tower and on the Champs Elysées.
LE RÉVEILLON (New Year’s Eve)
Having an abundance of food is paramount for a “Réveillon” to be a success. The more, the better! Some staples are champagne of course, and “Foie gras” (fattened duck liver). Of course, like in any good party, good music is also played, “pour s’amuser, et bien danser” (to have fun and dance). Of course like in many other cultures, the atmosphere is about celebrating the year that was, and the one to come. Guests also wear “chapeaux pointus” (pointy hats), and blow their “serpentins” (party blowers) at the strike of midnight.
LE COMPTE A REBOURS (the countdown)
Everyone takes part in the “compte à rebours” (countdown) “Cinq, quatre, trois, deux, un….Bonne année!!!”, then wishes each other “Bonne année! Bonne santé!” while toasting each other with champagne glasses. Couples may kiss under the “gui” (mistletoe). Some try to call their loved ones who are elsewhere which usually causes network problems due to high volume of calls.
DU BRUIT! (Noise!)
The one time it is ok to make tons of noise on the streets in France is while welcoming the New Year: people honk their horns, others use “pétards” (firecrackers), and people scream “Bonne année! Bonne santé!” at the top of their lungs, either by popping their head out of the window or by going into the streets. Making noise on New Year’s Eve may stem from an old belief that noise chases away bad spirits or demons, who were feared to be more prevalent on the night where one year gives place to another.
LES RESOLUTIONS DU NOUVEL AN (New Year’s resolutions)
Just like everywhere else, the French also make “resolutions pour la nouvelle année” (New year’s resolutions). Keeping them is another story! Some write cards to relatives, wishing them a good year, good health, happiness and success.
LES VOEUX PRÉSIDENTIELS (The presidential address)
Traditionally the French president addresses the nation on the 31st at 8PM on TV, to give his “voeux presidentiels” (presidential wishes). He usually uses to occasion to encourage the people, tell them his hopes for the future of the nation. In difficult times such as last year, right after the terrorist attack in Paris, the president exhorts the nation to stay strong, and reflect the values of the “republique Francaise” (French republic), which are “liberte, egalite, fraternite”.
UN AUTRE JOUR POUR LE NOUVEL AN? (New Year’s day on another day?)
A last fun fact about “Le Jour de l’An” in France is that it has not always been celebrated on January 1st. In the 7th century, it was on march 1st, in the 9th century, it was celebrated on Christmas Day. In the 10th century, it was on Easter day, and around the 16th century, it was celebrated April 1st. It is rumored Charles IX was the one who instituted New Year’s celebration on January 1st.
So from the bottom of my heart to you all:
BONNE ANNÉE 2017!!!
Here's a funny link to a video mashup of new year's wishes from Past French presidents