French figures: The shellfish that’s a festive must-have

French figures: The shellfish that's a festive must-have
Photo: AFP
This love-it-or-hate-it luxury foodstuff has its own season and festival in France.

Oysters are traditionally eaten in the cooler months – a hangover from when refrigeration was in its infancy and eating raw shellfish on a hot day was a high risk activity.

But in France they are not just associated with winter but with Christmas.

The traditional French family feast on December 24th is a shellfish banquet and the oyster is the undisputed king of the table.

But you will see oysters throughout the festive season in France, particularly at Christmas markets where the oyster stall is almost as popular as the vin chaud (hot wine) as people snack on the festive favourites.

The tradition of a seafood dinner on December 24th actually stems from a time when seafood and particularly oysters were the food of the poor, so having a few dozen oysters for dinner was seen as a 'fasting' day before the major Christmas feast.

READ ALSO Why do the French eat so much seafood at Christmas?

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The slippery little oyster has seen a dramatic rise in its status since then and is now regarded as a luxury foodstuff, with prices to match – especially over the festive period.

If you are an oyster fan, head out to France's west coast, especially around the islands of Ile de Ré and Ile d'Oléron which are famed for their oyster beds.

This article is part of The Local France's 2020 virtual advent calendar – every day until Christmas we will be presenting you with a person or object that has a particular significance to life in France.

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