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How Do You Celebrate New Year in France
In French, we call New Year's Eve "La Saint-Sylvestre" (pronounced "la sin(nasal) seal vay str") or "Le Réveillon du Nouvel An". Celebrated during the night of December 31st, we usually party with friends and/or family, in a more or less formal way.

How Do You Celebrate New Year’s Eve In France?

Some French people like to organize costume parties (des soirées déguisées) with a theme, others like to dress to the Nines (se mettre sur son 31), and dancing will be likely at these parties (French people like to dance… a lot! And many still know how to dance the swing – or a French version of it – which is still very popular even among young people).

At these parties, people may be discussing their new year’s resolutions “les résolutions de la nouvelle année“… New Year’s eve has more of a party vibe in France, and it’s often spent with friends rather than family.

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Mistletoe in French :  le Gui

It’s tradition to kiss at the stroke of midnight under le gui (pronounced hard G + ee = mistletoe), but that’s about all the tradition there is about it – and of course counting down to midnight sharp, when everybody kisses everybody else, cheers, aplaudes, throws confettis and other party streamers (des confettis, des cotillons), blows on whistles (des sifflets) and whistles with a streamer attached (des serpentins)…

If you are watching TV, there will often be a live variety show on that night on TV, and of course they’ll do the countdown as well.

Typical French Food For New Year’s Eve

One thing is certain, if you are invited for un dîner de la Saint Sylvestre / Le Réveillon  (New year’s eve dinner), there will be some Champagne, and possibly oysters (les huitres – mind your liaison “lay zueetr”), foie gras (fwa gra) and smoked salmon (du saumon fumé)… It’s also traditional to serve a turkey, or a goose, or cornish hen. Scallops and lobsters are also popular, so is game meat like venison. In other words, French chefs will bend over backwards to entertain their guests and serve only the best of the best of French produce and cuisine.

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Others will just have a casual gathering… go to a good restaurant (better have a reservation) or snuggle up at home, maybe watch TV, which will most likely feature “un bêtisier” (bloopers) and a live pop songs show, musical or a variety show… or just a really good movie.

France Celebrates New Year’s Eve With Fireworks and Dances

It’s not unlikely for cities to organize fireworks (des feux d’artifice) or dance (un bal populaire), or even a parade of some sort. But most people join friends at a party, or maybe go to a restaurant to celebrate the New Year.

Typical New Year Greetings In French

Typical greetings are:

  • “Je te/vous souhaite une joyeuse année”,
  • “Bonne année 2016!” (de meal kin(nasal)zzz),
  • “Que tous tes/vos voeux (veu) se réalisent en 2016”.
  • “Bonne année et bonne santé pour 2016”.

Wishing Happy New Year Doesn’t Last in France

Strangely enough, French people don’t wish each other Happy Holidays or Happy New Year way in advance like I’ve seen it done in the US – over there, come December you greet everyone with a “Happy Holidays”, with your friends but also in stores etc…

It’s not like that in France. People will say “Joyeux Noël” on Christmas Eve and day, and “Bonne année” the week after the New Year, but that’s about it. It’s not a faux-pas to do it, people will accept and usually politely return your wishes, but it’s just not done as much as it is in the US.

French New Year Vocabulary Recap

  • Joyeuse année! – Happy new year
  • Tous nos (mes) voeux pour la nouvelle année – all our (my) wishes for the new year
  • 2016 – deux mille seize [de meal sayzzz] Listen to it in my video below
  • Le Réveillon – used both for Christmas’ Eve and New Year’s Eve
  • Une soirée déguisée – costume party
  • Une soirée dansante – dancing party
  • Faire la fête – to party
  • Le gui (hard G + ee) – mistletoe
  • Les huitres (zwee tr) – oysters
  • Le saumon fumé – smoked salmon
  • Une dinde farcie – stuffed turkey
  • Un bêtisier – bloopers
  • Une emission de variétés – variety show
  • Un feu d’artifice – firework
  • Un bal populaire – street dance

Click here to read my article about making New Year’s Resolutions in French.

Bonne année à tous, may your 2016 progress in French be amazing :-)

Wait !

Did you know that in France the Holiday fun is not over until January 6th – the official end of the Holiday season in France? On January 6th, we celebrate l’Epiphanie with a special pastry: la galette des rois. Read more about it and learn an easy recipe here – bake it and let us know how it was!

And if you missed it before, here is all About Christmas (Noël) in France, and Hanukkah.


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Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 20 years in the US and France. Based on my students' goals and needs, I've created unique downloadable French audiobooks focussing on French like it's spoken today, for all levels. Most of my audiobooks are recorded at several speeds to help you conquer the modern French language. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!

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