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New Year's eve in France is called " la Saint Sylvestre " (pronounced "la sin(nasal) seal vay str") and is - unlike its name might indicate - not a religious holiday. Celebrated during the night of December 31st, we usually party with friends and/or family, in a more or less casual way.

How Do You Celebrate New Year In France?

Some 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”…


Kissing Under the Mistletoe (Le Gui)

It’s tradition to kiss at 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… There will often be a live variety show on that night on TV, and of course they’ll do the countdown as well.

French Food For New Year

One thing is certain, if you are invited for un dîner de la Saint Sylvestre (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 impress their guests and serve only the best of the best of French produce and cuisine.


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 With Fireworks and Dances

It’s not unlikely for cities to organize fireworks (des feux d’artifice) or dance (un bal populaire).

Typical New Year Greetings In French

Typical greetings are:

  • “Je te/vous souhaite une joyeuse année“,
  • “Bonne année 2015!” (de meal kin(nasal)zzz),
  • “Que tout tes/vos voeux (veu) se réalisent en 2015“.
  • “Bonne année et bonne santé pour 2015”.

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 of the New Year, but that’s about it. It’s not a faux-pas to do it, people will accept and return your wishes, but it’s just not done as much as in the US.

Bonne année à tous, may your 2015 progress in French be amazing :-)


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Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 19 years in the US, France, and to people around the world over the phone and by Skype . My method is proven and unique, and, based on my students' goals and needs, I've developed high quality French audiobooks and French audio lessons for all levels. Good luck with your studies and remember, repetition is the key!

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