Christmas in France means magical Christmas markets, exceptional illuminations and of course, the chance to indulge in some serious food appreciation. 

At this time of year towns, villages and cities across France arrange a brilliant array of festivities, special events, gourmet fairs, shows, shopping, decorated chateaux and of course, those fabulous markets. 

Christmas in the South of France
Christmas in Provence means holiday markets, nativity scenes and traditional parades. And, as for the gastronomy – it’s nothing short of extraordinary, plus it’s truffle season, so you’ll find plenty of delightful food featuring this pungent delicacy.

Provence often has plenty of winter sun and the average temperature in December is around 50° (give or take), certainly warm enough to sit outside with a jumper on. But, on cool days there’s nothing to beat wrapping up warm and wandering the markets, sipping hot mulled wine and nibbling sweet roasted chestnuts.

Feeling like you’re a part of local life and not a tourist is easier to do during the winter holidays.  Most of the people roaming the streets and enjoying the holiday festivities are locals. The French love to get out and celebrate, and in this part of France customs are revered, such as the famous 13 desserts. It’s a traditional “meal” eaten after midnight mass . It’s served buffet style including pomp à l’huile (olive oil and orange water flat bread), oranges, nougat, almonds, dried figs, Calissons d’Aix and more. Why 13 desserts? To symbolize Christ and his 12 disciples. The symbolism is also in each dessert. For example, the oranges represent wealth and are often given as a traditional Christmas gift.

Christmas and Chateaux
Christmas and chateaux – it’s the perfect combination. Visiting one of the great chateaux in France is special at any time but at Christmas it’s a positively enchanting experience as many châteaux dress up in their Christmas finery, and the entire city of Blois makes merry with its Winter festival.

Here are just a few of the most unmissable:

Vaux Le Vicomte, Ile de France
The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte is a baroque French château located in Maincy, near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris in the Seine-et-Marne department of France. Fairy tale decorations and beautiful garlands are festooned throughout the castle – 12,000 decorations to be precise! In the centre of the Great Hall there’s always an amazing display. While at dusk, the famous gardens, designed by French gardener André le Nôtre, are illuminated with twinkling lights and lantern sculptures.  Details: vaux-le-vicomte.com/en

Chenonceau, Loire Valley
The Château de Chenonceau, in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France, is often known as the “ladies Chateau”. It was given to Diane de Poitiers by her lover Henry II and had many famous lady owners over the centuries who shaped its fortunes. Perhaps it is that feminine touch that gives it such a beautiful look at Christmas when every room in the Castle is filled with sumptuous displays of flowers and garlands. The kitchen, bedrooms, hallways have beautiful Christmas trees, flower arrangements and thousands of gorgeous decorations.  Details: www.chenonceau.com

Janine Marsh is the editor of www.thegoodlifefrance.com and magazine.thegoodlifefrance. Living in the north of France, she’s written three books about life in France and is maid to about 55 animals! https://magazine.thegoodlifefrance.com/

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