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🎄 11 Tips to Debunk New Year in France + Vocabulary

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis - updated on Jun 17, 2020

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.

So let’s see what French people do on New Year’s Eve and learn the New Year French vocabulary.

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

New Year’s eve in France is a big deal, and French people often have parties. Let’s see how the French truly celebrate New Year and list seventh truths about this yearly celebration.

 2 – New Year’s Eve Party in France – Expect to Dance!

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).

3 – New Year’s Eve is Spent With Friends

New Year’s eve has more of a party vibe in France, and it’s often spent with friends rather than family.

At these parties, people may be discussing their new year’s resolutions “les résolutions de la nouvelle année“…

Others will just have a casual gathering… 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.


4 – Kissing Under the Mistletoe :  S’embrasser Sous le Gui

It’s tradition to kiss at the stroke of midnight under le gui (pronounced hard G + ee = mistletoe).

Except from this, we don’t have special traditions in France about New Year’s Eve, except 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)…

5 – 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 du Nouvel An  (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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6 – Going Out to a Restaurant for the New Year

Our New Year’s meal is pretty much the same than the French Christmas meal, except that it’s rather common to go out to a restaurant for New Year’s Eve.

Restaurants will offer a special (and pricey) set selection of festive dishes (the set selection is called “un menu“, not to be mistaken with the menu which is “la carte“)

New year in France

7 – French Villages and Towns Celebrates New Year’s Eve With Fireworks and Dances

It’s not unlikely for cities to organize fireworks (des feux d’artifice) or a danse (un bal populaire), or even a parade of some sort.

8 – 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.

9 – Typical New Year Greetings In French

Typical New Year greetings are:

  1. “Je te/vous souhaite une joyeuse année”,
  2. “Bonne année 2020!” (de meal vin(nasal)),
  3. “Que tous tes/vos voeux (veu) se réalisent en 2020”.
  4. “Bonne année et bonne santé pour 2020”.

10 – French New Year Vocabulary Recap

  1. Joyeuse année! – Happy new year
  2. Tous nos (mes) voeux pour la nouvelle année – all our (my) wishes for the new year
  3. 2020 – deux mille-vingt [de meal vin(nasal)] Listen to it in my video below
  4. Le Réveillon – used both for Christmas’ Eve and New Year’s Eve
  5. Une soirée déguisée – costume party
  6. Une soirée dansante – dancing party
  7. Faire la fête – to party
  8. Le gui (hard G + ee) – mistletoe
  9. Les huitres (zwee tr) – oysters
  10. Le saumon fumé – smoked salmon
  11. Le foie-gras – Fancy liver paté
  12. Le champagne – champagne (sh sound, no tch!)
  13. Un bêtisier – bloopers
  14. Une émission de variétés – variety show
  15. Un feu d’artifice – firework
  16. 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 2020 progress in French be amazing :-)

11 – How To Say Happy New Year 2020 in French – Video

Wishing you all happy holidays and a wonderful new year 2020 in French!

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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