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La Belle Vie: How to have a French Christmas and what's happening in France in 2024

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
La Belle Vie: How to have a French Christmas and what's happening in France in 2024
The skyline of Paris during twilight with the illuminated wooden structure of the new spire (C) in place at Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral in early December 2023. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP)

From French Christmas traditions to classic films and why you should visit France this year, this week's La Belle Vie newsletter offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like a French person.

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La Belle Vie is our regular look at the real culture of France – from language to cuisine, manners to films. This newsletter is published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to your newsletter preferences in “My account”.

If you want to really enjoy the Christmas season in France, there are a few experiences you should prioritise. 

From sitting around a sizzling pot of fondue to cracking open fresh oysters and sipping on a vin chaud, these quintessential French activities are best experienced during the cold months. 

Eight of the best winter experiences in France

If you don't have the time or the funds to visit north-east France, there are also many different ways to get into the French Christmas spirit.

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One great method is to watch Christmas movies - this will not only help you understand the random film references and jokes your French friends make, but it will also give you an opportunity to practice your French (with a hot chocolate in hand).

5 classic French Christmas movies

Being a foreigner in France brings with it the opportunity to create 'blended' celebrations. Sometimes you even find yourself coming to the realisation that the 'French way' is better than the one you grew up with. 

Personally, I did not grow up with Advent calendars. There are some American households that buy them, but this was not a tradition in my home - I only started doing it after moving to France. Now, I look forward to a little treat every day in December. 

And while turkey is great for Thanksgiving, I freely admit that by early December I have eaten enough of it that I cannot stomach any more until the next year. France's seafood platter is a great change of pace, plus it's quick, easy and you don't have to worry about making sure everything is warm at the same time.

How foreigners in France mix traditions to create a 'blended' Christmas

With the New Year approaching, many of us are thinking about travel plans and holidays. For those who live outside of France, there are several great reasons to come to l'Hexagone this year.

From important World War II anniversaries to international sporting events (not just the Olympics) and the reopening of Notre-Dame, there will be plenty going on in France next year. 

14 reasons to visit France in 2024

Some annual visitors to France might be tempted to skip the trip this year, out of fear that the Olympic Games will bring huge crowds, increased prices, and general travel mayhem.

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We looked into this and found that getting to and from France - whether that is by plane, train or car - should not differ too much in price from the normal peak season in the summer. Those visiting other parts of France outside of Paris may not see too much of an Olympic influence, but Paris will have a lot of visitors. That being said, the city is taking steps to prepare for the crowds.

Should I avoid France during the Olympics?

Unfortunately, Notre-Dame cathedral will not be ready for reopening before the Olympics, but it is expected to open its doors during the final months of 2024. 

I moved to France shortly after the fire, so I have never stepped inside the cathedral and am really looking forward to the reopening. In preparation, I found these five facts about it to be fascinating. 

Five not-so-famous things about Notre-Dame cathedral

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