What’s on: The best events in France over the festive season

From markets to concerts and even Christmassy sports events, there is plenty to do in France before the new year kicks in. Here's a rundown of what's going on around the country this festive season.

What’s on: The best events in France over the festive season
Photos: AFP

Foire aux Santons, until December 24, Mouans-Sartoux, Provence

The Provence region is famous for its “Santons”, hand-painted nativity scene figurines made out of terracotta.

You’ll find them at festive celebrations throughout the region, but at the fair in Mouans-Sartoux artists from all over France come together to showcase and sell their creations.

If you fancy displaying a traditional “Provençal crèche” this Christmas you'll find everything you need at the fair, from hundreds of accessories for the crib to books on the history and art of figurine making.


No carols, no mince pies and no crackers: Is Christmas in France less fun?

Vaux-le-Vicomte celebrates Christmas, until January 6, Seine-et-Marne

Experience Christmas in a castle at Vaux-le-Vicomte.

Every year the chateau decks out its reception rooms, courtyards, outbuildings and French gardens with Christmas decorations, and this year's theme is Christmas toys.

As well as snow-covered Christmas trees and horse-drawn carriage rides around the garden, there will be authentic miniature trains, and traditional toys on display.

Visitors can also bring toys to donate to the Red Cross.

Marché de Noel, until December 24, Strasbourg

Following a tragic terror attack in the Strasbourg Christmas market earlier this month, new security measures have been added and the oldest Christmas market in Europe has reopened to visitors. 

Despite what has happened Strasbourg Christmas market is undoubtedly the best in France and is perfect for a spectacularly festive experience with a range of events on offer, including music, craft workshops and activities for children alongside the usual stalls and food. 

Of course, there are also loads more Christmas markets worth visiting across France too. Here is our pick of the best.

IN PICTURES: The best Christmas markets to visit in France in 2018Photo: Village De Noel Paris La Defense

Les Foulées du Père Noel, December 21st, Sérignan, Hérault

Serignan’s Santa Run is a 2.5k course that you can run or walk as many times as you like.

More of an opportunity to partake in festive cheer than show off your sporting prowess, runners are not timed and prizes are awarded for the best costumes.

All entrants get a free, light-up Santa hat and drink voucher for a post-race mulled wine, hot chocolate or beer.

It’s free to sign up from 6 pm, and there will be DJs and music until 9 pm.

Christmas concerts in Paris’ churches

Churches across Paris will be offering some spectacular Christmas shows this month.

The église Saint Sulpice is holding a Christmas carols concert on December 21st, as is the église Saint-Louis-en-L’île on December 22nd

As well as enjoying traditional Christmas music at these concerts you can also take in the beautiful architecture of these magnificent old building at your leisure. 

If you’re in the capital on Christmas day it's also worth taking a look at the traditional Christmas Concert at the gothic wonder, St. Severin.

Photo: AFP

Casse-Noisette, December 27th – January 10th, dates across France

The Russian National Opera is bringing Tchaïkovsky's festive classic The Nutcracker to theatres throughout France this winter. It promises to recreate the world of childhood with its dreamlike combination of dance and orchestral accompaniment.

New Years Dance Party, January 31st, Courcheval, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Spending the end of December in the ski station of Courcheval means you can attend free shows including the midnight dance party on the snow at New Year's Eve.

There will also be fireworks at midnight.  

Courcheval. Photo: Courcheval website

New Year Fireworks, December 31, Cannes

Cannes annual new years fireworks display will be held on the Croisette at midnight.

Bain de Nouvel An, January 1, Trez Hir Beach, Brittany

If you’re looking to shake off a new year’s day hangover or just start 2019 with a splash, the Trez Hir swim in the sea could be for you. Sign ups, music and (much needed) group warm-ups start from 2 pm, before a dip in the sea at 3 pm. Medical certificates are required.

Swimmers at Trez Hir in 2005. Photo: AFP

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Will anywhere in France get a white Christmas this year?

A white Christmas might be at the top of many people's festive wish list but will it actually come true for anyone in France this year?

Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France.
Haut-Koenigsbourg castle in Orschwiller, eastern France. Non-mountainous parts of the country will not see snow this year. (Photo by PATRICK HERTZOG / AFP)

If you’re in France and have been dreaming of a white Christmas, you are probably out of luck. 

It has been freezing in recent days with temperatures falling to a low of -33.4C in Jura on Wednesday morning, but the cold spell isn’t going to last. 

Temperatures across the country will hover around the 10C level in most of France by the afternoon on December 25th according to Météo France, with parts of the country including Brittany and some parts of eastern France experiencing rainfall. 

By the afternoon on Christmas Day, the chances of snow look extremely limited. Source:

On Saturday, there will be some snowfall, but only if you are high in the mountains at an altitude of 1,800-2,000m. On Sunday, places above 1,500m could also see snow – but this rules out the vast majority of the country. 

Roughly half the country will see sunshine over the weekend. The French weather channel said that this Christmas could be among the top five or six warmest since 1947. 

Last year, Météo France cautioned: “While we often associate snow with Christmas in the popular imagination, the probability of having snow in the plains [ie not in the mountains] during this period is weak in reality.”

One of the last great Christmas snowfalls, outside of France’s mountainous areas, came in 2010 when 3-10 cm of snow fell in Lille, Rouen and Paris. In Strasbourg, 26cm fell. 

On Christmas Day in 1996, 12 cm of snow fell in Angers – ironically, this was also the day that the film, Y’aura t’il de la neige à Noël? (Will there never be snow at Christmas?) was released. It had been ten years since France had seen such snowfall outside of the Alps and Pyrenees. 

Météo France directly attributes declining rates of Christmas snowfall to climate change. Compared to 50 years ago, even the Alps receives the equivalent one less month of snowfall per year.