Christmas Traditions the French Living In The U.S. Will Miss

TransferWise content team
3 minute read

Come late November and usually frosty temperatures, France is filled with festive displays of holiday spirit.

From roasted chestnuts at holiday markets to elaborate evening feasts that stretch into breakfast hours.

Here are five of the traditions French expats told TransferWise they miss when spending the holidays in the U.S.

Responses from Santa Claus -- By Law


Many children around the world send letters to Santa Claus, and wonder if he’s read them.

Yet in France they can be sure to get an answer: since 1962, the French have had a law mandating that any letter written to Père Noël in the France post service must receive a response in the form of a postcard.

Burning the Yule Log


While the yule log is burned in many parts of the world during the holidays, the French have a special way of doing it.

In some parts of the country such as Brittany and Provence, prayers are recited as the log is lit.

In a ritual called cacho fio (blessing of the log), the piece of wood, or branch from a fruit-bearing tree, is carried around the house three times by the grandfather. It is also blessed with wine, and often lit together with the ashes of last year’s log.

The French like their Yule logs so much that they even eat them. Well, sort of. The beloved Bûche de Noël cake roll which resembles that of a log is enjoyed all throughout the country during the Christmas season.

Saint Nicholas Day

In France, excited children already awake to some small presents on the morning of December 6th, having set their shoes out for Santa to fill with treats the night before.

Those kids who were more naughty than nice over the previous year, however, will find a bundle of twigs.

These come from Père Fouettard (Whipping Father), who is dressed in all black and, appropriately, carries a whip. In many French towns, elaborate parades on the 6th welcome the arrival of Santa and his less friendly companion.



The French love their fine food, and Christmas Day is no exception.

This especially ornate dinner, traditionally served after midnight on Christmas morning, can last upwards of six hours.

It can include delicacies such as foie gras, escargots and turkey stuffed with lobster. In Provence, 13 desserts are included with the meal, including the beloved Pompes à l'huile, a sweet cake made out of orange flower water and olive oil.

Roasted Chestnuts


Most Americans know about “chestnuts roasting over an open fire” from a song by the same name.

But throughout France, people know of marrons chauds from their savory smell, which drifts through the cold streets where vendors usually sell them piping hot in cones.

They are also a favorite treat at one of the many magical marchés de noël (Christmas markets) throughout the country.

Sending money back to France for the holidays? Don't get hit with a bad exchange rate.

TransferWise charges just 1% or 0.7% over $5,000. That's much less than that wire fee your bank charges.

And most importantly, we never use a mark-up on the exchange rate (unlike a bank or broker) - so you'll receive far more euros or dollars than you would if you used your bank.

(Rate mark-ups...? Not sure what we are talking about? Take a look at what the rate your bank uses actually costs you):


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