There’s something about French guys… and you just want to hear what they have to say! I’m often asked what my husband thinks about American culture, food, the people and more. Curious minds want to know what French guys think about all kinds of things, so today my husband, Tom, is bringing you the next installment of his series called Ask Tom Tuesdays. He’s answering your questions about whatever you want to know….
Today’s question comes from Alan who wants to know about how the French celebrate New Year’s, so Tom fills you in after the jump…
New Year’s Eve in France
New Year’s Eve is my birthday so the celebration on December 31st has always been a little special for me. Presents and birthday cakes have always been mixed in with the Champagne and the ball dropping and most years I celebrated with a nice dinner (sometimes out and sometimes at home) among friends and family. Going to NYC to see the ball drop live is always a treat and staying up to ring in the New Year while partying the night away is the kind of fun that only comes once a year. So France is no exception when it comes to New Year’s festivities and there are several similarities between the New Year’s celebrations in the USA and France. Below, Tom answers Alan’s question about how the French ring in the New Year!
Here are a few quick facts about New Year’s Eve in France:
- New Year’s Eve is called “réveillon du jour de l’an” or “réveillon de la Saint Sylvestre” in France.
- While Christmas Eve is mainly a family event, New Year’s Eve is more commonly celebrated with friends.
- It usually consists of a feast with rich and upscale foods and many types of alcohol. Foods likes foie gras are common as is Champagne of course. French people grant importance to food all year long, and even more so on New Year’s Eve. We tend to dress up as well (yes, even more than for a regular Sunday family meal!) and get together at our homes or our friends’ homes, at restaurants or even at places for special parties.
- For New Year’s Eve in France, restaurants have special menus like they do in the US and are three to four times more expensive than a regular meal due to the upscale food and drink, and of course, because it’s a special night. Restaurants also close way later than usual.
- In France, you can find some special parties that are organized specifically for New Year’s Eve where you pay to dine and dance. It’s almost like a wedding reception type of party. They range from rather casual and popular to very chic.
- Close to midnight, usually still in the middle of the meal, people count down the last seconds of the year (but there’s no ball that drops like in New York City) and scream “bonne année” when the clock hits 12 a.m. They then kiss each other (on cheeks or lips depending on the relationship you have with the person you kiss!) and you can hear the corks from the Champagne bottles pop. Traditionally people would kiss under a branch of mistletoe or holly as a sign of good luck for the coming year, but it’s not really observed nowadays.
- People also wish each other “bonne année et bonne santé” (and they usually insist on the “santé” “et surtout la
santé” which means they’re wishing you good health for the coming year).
- People like to make a lot of noise, going out in the streets (especially for the most drunk of them) and screaming “bonne année” or honking their horns.
- There aren’t usually fireworks (except some firecrackers thrown by people). The last firework in Paris were in 2000, for the celebration of the new millennium (and fireworks are even prohibited for New Year’s Eve in the Paris area because of the danger and risk of disrupting public order).
- In cities (especially the largest ones), people gather around squares and main streets (like Eiffel Tower and Champ Élysée in Paris).
- After a few minutes of “wild” celebration people go back to their meal or their dancing til the end of the night (usually very late that night, or rather early in the morning of New Year’s Day).
A few extra things to note:
- The French President traditionally speaks on TV for New Year’s Eve around 8 p.m. (before people get too drunk to understand what he has to say) to give his wishes.
- From when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve and onward, people wish each other a happy new year, and that goes on until around the last week of January. French people are not very punctual!
- It’s also from New Year’s Day that people give the “étrennes” which are “New Year’s gifts” (they’re mainly given to people in the service industry –- it’d be traditionally an envelope with cash for the janitor of the building (even though they’re an “endangered species” in Paris with the expansion of the digicodes to get in buildings) or the mailman (even though they already sell calendars like the firemen do to make extra money around this time)…
- Finally, New Year’s Eve is also the beginning of New Year’s resolutions (like quitting smoking, starting to work out again, and… finishing his Ask Tom Tuesdays posts before his deadlines!!!)