When to send Christmas gifts from France

The Local France
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When to send Christmas gifts from France
Employees of La Poste read Christmas letters sent by children. (Photo by JEAN-PIERRE MULLER / AFP)

French postal service La Poste has been hard at work recruiting 3,000 seasonal staff for Christmas, unsurprisingly its busiest time of the year.


More than 20 percent - and rising - of La Poste’s annual workload is collected, sorted and delivered in the six weeks leading up to Christmas Day. Last year, its Colissimo parcel service delivered an estimated 100 million packages in November and December alone.  

And those additional staff this year will be tasked with helping ensure that another bumper collection of parcels, cards and letters from friends and family arrive in good time and in good condition. 

La Poste has yet to publish its last delivery dates to guarantee your seasonal gifts arrive at their intended destination in good time. 


But, in normal circumstances Colissimo parcels take three to five days to arrive in the UK from France; five to eight days to get to USA; and 10 to 14 days to reach Australia. La Poste’s website has a tool that allows you to confirm its standard international Colissimo delivery times.

Parcels can also be sent via Chronopost, which usually offers faster delivery: two days for the US with Chrono Express. 

Christmas, however, is, much, much busier. So add a few days for deliveries at this time of year. La Poste is expected to issue its guaranteed delivery dates in the coming days.

Private couriers like Fed-Ex and DPD have their own deadlines, although they are broadly in line with La Poste, and if you're buying online each company has its own deadline on when it can guarantee a Christmas delivery.

Britain’s Royal Mail, meanwhile, has issued its guaranteed delivery dates for its various parcel services this year. The deadlines are as follows and offer a pretty sensible guide:

International Tracking and Signature Services

Monday, December 11th: Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Bulgaria, Caribbean, China, Far and Middle East, Norway, Portugal, Spain

Tuesday, December 12th: Cyprus and Malta

Wednesday, December 13th: USA, Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Eastern Europe, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey

International Standard (Untracked)

Tuesday, December 5th: Australia, New Zealand, Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Caribbean, China, Far and Middle East

Wednesday, December 6th: Cyprus and Malta

Thursday, December 7th: Ireland, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Eastern Europe (except Czech Republic and Poland), France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey

Friday, December 8th: Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, Poland, Sweden, USA


If you are looking to ship any packages from the United States to France, the US postal service has issued a recommended calendar if you want them to arrive prior to December 25th:

Wednesday, December 6th: First-Class Package International Service

Wednesday, December 6th: Priority Mail International Service

Wednesday, December 13th: Priority Mail Express International Service

Friday, December 15th: Global Express Guaranteed Service

Customs and VAT

If you are sending to a country outside the EU (which of course now includes the UK) then you will need to fill out a customs declaration form explaining what is in your parcel and whether it is a gift or not.

In addition to standard postal charges, you may also need to pay customs duties, depending on the value or your parcel and whether it is a gift or not. 

In general terms, however, no VAT should be due on packages worth less than €45, as long as they are clearly marked as gifts. Customs duty is due on orders worth more than €150. 

READ ALSO Explained: The post-Brexit rules and charges for sending parcels between UK and France

Banned items

Some items that are banned from the post - if you're sending parcels to the US be aware that you cannot send alcohol through the mail as a private individual, so don't try a ship some nice French wine or a bottle of your local liqueur. 

Most countries ban firearms and fireworks, not unreasonably, although be aware that this includes items like sparklers.

Sending food and plants is also often restricted with countries including Canada and Australia having strict rules and most other countries imposing restrictions on what you can send.


This also applies the other way and France bans any foodstuffs containing animal products (eg chocolate) sent from outside the EU. 

Letters from the Big Man

Most importantly of all as Christmas approaches, Santa’s Secretariat has opened for seasonal business. Some 60 elves, seconded to La Poste’s offices in Libourne, are ready to receive letters from children across France, and make sure they get a reply.

This year, Santa has got help writing his replies from best-selling author Michel Bussi. In order to receive a letter from the Big FC, simply write to him and put your letter in an envelope addressed to Père Noël. Post your letter through La Poste by December 20th, and you will get a reply in time for Christmas.

While waiting for the big day, the Santa Claus Secretariat invites children and parents to visit its website, which features Christmas stories to listen to, decoration workshops, and traditional recipes.


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