Le Jour De L’An: New Year Celebration In France

France celebrates New Year on January 1 like many other countries do. The beginning of a new year, which is “le Jour de l’An” in French, is a highly anticipated occasion that is observed with festivities. Among these is the customary holding of a feast, referred to as “le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre”.

The term “la Saint-Sylvestre” actually refers to New Year’s Eve (December 31). Hence, the le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre feast is a grand celebration the French host to mark the closing of an old year and the birth of another. Special dishes, such as foie gras (fattened goose liver), are aplenty during this time; so are various kinds of drinks including the very popular sparkling white wine “champagne” and the equally famous hot wine “vin chaud”. At the stroke of midnight, family members and friends #### under “le gui” (the mistletoe).

Fireworks are common, especially on the streets of Paris. These have become an important part of the New Year celebration in this city, which is helped a lot by the fact that fireworks are legally sold and bought here.

The celebration can be a simple get-together of family members over dinner or a more extravagant formal gathering of families and friends called “une soiree” (literally, an evening gathering). Traditional activities include exchanging of “les etrennes” (New Year’s gifts) and even of “une bonne resolution” (New Year’s resolutions). People greet each other excitedly on the streets, give greeting cards and other goodies, all meant to usher in a prosperous new year.

In Bordeaux and other cities and villages in southwest France, people hear mass in the evening and join the torchlight procession that ends in the vineyards, where people pick grapes and enjoy some mulled wine. In the southern city of Avignon, the famous “Illuminations Tour and Dinner” is a fully-booked activity at this time.

Festivities in the capital city of Paris are held with the participation of thousands of entertainers, singers and dancers. These festivities, actually a two-day parade, go through several streets, proceed through the city’s metropolitan area of Chantilly on December 31, and end at the Champ de Mars (right under the Eiffel Tower) the following day (January 1).

New Year songs are heard all over, such as “Choral des Adieux”, the equivalent of the Scottish poem-turned-folk song “Auld Lang Syne”. Two other songs popularly sung during this occasion are “Toast pour le nouvel An” (“Toast to the New Year”) and “La chanson du Nouvel-An” (“Song of the New Year”).

Taking a cruise has become a popular way of celebrating New Year in France of late. Cruise choices (reservations should be made at least one month before New Year) include tours of the canals and rivers of France, a tour of the northern part of the country on the Seine beginning at Paris and ending at Normandy (this is ideal for couples), or of the southern part on the Saone and Rhone starting at Lyon and terminating at Provence.

The conclusion of all celebrations of le Jour de l’An is on the feast of the Epiphany (January 6). Here, a special cake, called “la galette des rois” (king’s cake) is cut and shared among family members and friends.

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