Awakening to a French style Christmas


Joyeux Noel mon amis,

My french awakening to Christmas with its beautiful blend of old traditions with new, brought on one conclusive discovery- that a French style Christmas may be just what you need!

Imagine a white Christmas…

Sure you may have to scrap away a little snow…

But you can leave all those mundane chores behind…

and allow time to stand still like those in central France.

Some Christmas traditions have been around for a long time. Now the idea of using a Christmas tree (sapin de Noel) was bought to France around the middle of the fourteenth century.Today, some french in country areas opt for using yule logs instead…

which they douse in red wine to keep the logs alight, but this seems a perfectly good waste of french red, don’t you think?

Old French Christmas traditions are fabulous. Hanging candy, fruits, nuts and small toys from snow covered branches is precious for the young at heart…

and arranging a nativity scene (or creche) in a prominent space gives the essential religious dimension to most French homes.

Often village characters (called santons) are used in these manger scenes. Does this say we can all be kings? The figurines, made of clay in the south of France, have been often passed down from generation to generation, so then it becomes familiar and enriching. I like that.

Newer traditions may involve sending an email to the French Santa (who can handle emails unlike the German santa!) and hanging your favourite french decorations of glass- like this chook from Paris for  your tree…

And cooking frozen ones like these in the Loire Valley, for the table…

Or making new pomanders from an aged old recipe of oranges, cloves and exotic spices- a wonderful Christmas treat for the kids. The word ‘pomander’ comes from the French “pomme de’ambre” meaning apple of ambergris -a perfume ingredient. However, times have changed and I for one am not going to attach any pomander to my girdle (as I don’t wear one)  but this was common practice of some women during the Middle Ages!

The little tradition of sticking cloves in oranges and rolling them in spices will fill your Christmas air with a rich earthy yet sublimely sweet perfume and has been known to last for many months into the New Year and even up to the next Christmas! You can wrap them with ribbons to hang or simply give them away as gifts!

Another French tradition is that everyone in France indulges in the main, extended evening meal which usually takes place after midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This is known as Reveillon (an ‘awakening’) and where often the traditional french dessert called Buche de Noel is served. (Buche means log by the way.)

If you are looking for the perfect Christmas dessert when you are sitting at a sumptuous french table…

you can’t go past a french yule cake, made in the shape of a tree log. It’s a very light sponge cake rolled and wrapped in chocolate, strawberry or rum flavoured cream, adorned with woodland creatures such as reindeers, perhaps a meringue mushroom or two, then dusted with icing sugar. Have you tasted a piece? It’s heavenly!

I have a recipe right here if you’d like to try…

Buche de Noel (French Yule Log)

You will need:

6 egg yolks

6 egg whites

2 cups cream

1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa and 1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup icing sugar (extra)

1/3 cup cocoa (extra)

1/4 cup white sugar (extra)

pinch of salt

1 1/2 tsp vanilla

1 tsp extra vanilla


1. Preheat oven 190degrees. Line a lamington tray with greaseproof paper.

2. Whip the cream, 1/2 cup icing sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa and 1tsp vanilla in bowl until stiff, then cool in fridge.

3.Beat egg yolks and 1/2 cup white sugar. Add 1/3 cocoa, rest of vanilla and pinch salt.

4. In another bowl, beat egg whites until they have formed soft peaks. Graually add in the extra sugar then fold yolk mixture in and spread onto tray.

5. Bake 12 to 15 min until it springs back when touched.When cooled a little, take out and roll cake up.Allow to cool completely.

6. Unroll the cake, spread the fill generously (after all it is Christmas!) then roll up again and refrigerate.

Decorate with ornaments or candles or nativity figures (its up to you!)

Bon appetite!

So my friends, where ever you may be right now, I hope you have an absolutely beautiful Christmas and celebrate over a meal with those who appreciate who you are- whether it be family or friends or both. Surround yourself with those you love and as for 2011- may each of you keep your dreams alive for an inspirational and successful New Year.

Perhaps next Christmas will be in France!

All the very best and thankyou to all of you – it’s been fabulous!

With love, Therese Waddell




3 Responses to “Awakening to a French style Christmas”

  1. Sounds like a wonderful Christmas! Mine was less culturally rich, but very nice! My hubby and I roasted an enormous turkey together and feasted! The pomanders sound lovely…I think I will try my hand at making some next year.

    Hope Ava

  2. For next Christmas, try this authentic French recipe: Christmas yule log with chocolate and chestnut paste – Bûche de Noël au chocolat et crème de marrons

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