Do the French Celebrate Thanksgiving? 🦃

Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Do the French celebrate Thanksgiving? In this article, you’ll find the French Thanksgiving vocabulary as well as cultural notes about “le Jour de l’Action de Grâce(s)” as they say in Canada.

So first let’s see what happens for Thanksgiving in France.

Does France Celebrate Thanksgiving?

Not only France doesn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but the majority of French people don’t have a clue about what Thanksgiving is, and how important it is a celebration for our friends to the West.

Thanksgiving tradition is linked to the early British and French settlers that came to the Northern American continent, and it celebrates how these settlers shared their food with their Indian neighbors as a way to say “thank you” for showing them things they could eat: turkey, corn, sweet potatoes…

As big of a celebration as it is in the US and Canada, that’s pretty much the only countries that celebrate it (with few exceptions like Liberia or the Norfolk Islands).

For the French, the only idea of Thanksgiving they have is from American movies or sitcoms, where they can see the traditional, and often dysfunctional and/or hilarious, Hollywood view of it. “Friends” was a big hit in France, and many French people remember Joey getting his head stuck in the turkey!

They are often surprised to find out that Thanksgiving in the US is a 2 days national holiday which is, in many families, more important than Christmas.

And let me tell you, putting together a traditional Thanksgiving meal in France can be a real feat – see why in Olivier’s article!


What is Thanksgiving in French?

French-speaking Canada is where the French language and Thanksgiving really meet.

So the ‘official’ French translation of Thanksgiving is the one used in Canada: “le jour de l’action de grâce(s)” (although the English word “Thanksgiving” is also very much used there).

Do The French Really Say “Le Jour De Merci Donnant”?

I’ve also seen on the internet “le Jour de Merci Donnant” but my friends from Québec told me they’ve never heard it there. I never heard that in France either… Looks like this was a popular column by Art Buchwald. Well, it’s now a running joke, so you may hear people say “le jour de Merci Donnant” for Thanksgiving.

French thanksgiving in France

French Thanksgiving Vocabulary

Now let’s see the French terms used around Thanksgiving.

  1. Un festin = a (food) feast
  2. Une dinde = turkey (note: “le dindon” is the live animal)
  3. La farce = the stuffing
  4. Une purée de pomme de terre = mashed potatoes
  5. Un épis de maïs = corncob (note the pronunciation ma-iss)
  6. Du pain de maïs = corn bread
  7. Une sauce de canneberges/airelles = cranberry sauce
  8. La sauce au jus de viande = gravy (see Olivier’s very own gravy recipe with a French twist)
  9. Une tarte aux noix de pécans = pecan pie
  10. Une tarte aux pommes de terre douces = sweet potatoe pie
  11. Une tarte au potiron = pumpkin pie
  12. De la guimauve = marshmallow
  13. Des haricots verts = green beens
  14. La famille = family
  15. Une réunion de famille = a family gathering
  16. Dire ce pourquoi on est reconnaissants = to say what we are grateful for
  17. Dire merci, remercier = to say thank you, to thank
  18. La récolte = the harvest
  19. Les indiens d’Amérique / les Premières Nations = Native Americans
  20. Une colonie = a colony
  21. Un pèlerin = a pilgrim
  22. Une tradition = a tradition
  23. Un match de football américain = a football match

What Sound Does a Turkey Make in French?

In French, “la dinde” (female turkey, also the name for the meat), and “le dindon” (male turkey) “glougloutent” – the verb is glouglouter, it’s a regular “er” verb, and the noun “le glougloutement” (we also say “glouglou”…)

thanksgiving in french
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Black Friday in France

“Black Friday” marks the start of the Holiday sales in the US (les soldes = sales).

In France, it started around 2015  with only big companies sending out “Black Friday” or “Cyber” sales over the internet or even coupon through the mail. It was still discreet, though.

In 2017, I saw it for the first time affecting the stores in my small town of Paimpol, Brittany!

In 2019, it’s all over the Internet! All the online stores have some kind of “black week”, “black Friday lunches (!!)” (In English – see the picture of my inbox below)…

I thought it would be hilarious to actually ask French people what they think “Black Friday” refers to… So I actually went in my small Brittany town street and asked people about it: learn more about “Black Friday” in France and sales vocabulary in my article.

black friday in france

Now let’s see how to thank in French.

Thanks in French

Click the blue text next to the headphone to hear me say that word or sentence in French.

  1. Merci” is ‘thank you’. Its pronounced like “mair see” (watch out, no “mur” sound!!)
  2. Merci beaucoup” – ‘thank you very much’.
  3. Mille mercis” or “merci mille fois” – kind of “thanks a million” but it’s only a thousand in French!
  4. Merci du fond du coeur” – thank you from the bottom of my heart

Learn 30 ways to say thank you in French in my in depth article, with many examples and different ways of saying thank you and audio recordings.

Another way to say ‘thank you’ is to use the verb “remercier”, but it is quite formal in French, much less common than using “merci”. 

  • Je vous remercie pour ce délicieux repas.
    I thank you for this delicious meal.

How to say ‘I’m Grateful For” in French

At Thanksgiving, it’s a tradition to go around the table and say what you are grateful for, thankful for that year.

In French, to say you are grateful, the expression is “être reconnaissant(e)”

The preposition used after it is a bit tricky:
– “pour” / “de” + something
– “envers” + someone (sometimes “à” but I don’t like how it sounds!! It may be outdated now)

  1. Je suis reconnaissante pour la vie que j’ai en France – I’m thankful for the life I have in France
  2. Olivier et moi sommes reconnaissants envers tous les gens qui ont acheté nos livres audio : un grand merci à tous !
    Olivier and I are thankful to all the people who bought our French audiobooks: a big thank-you to all!

Joyeux jour de l’Action de Grâce à vous et à votre famille !

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Author: Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Camille Chevalier-Karfis

Born and raised in Paris, I have been teaching today's French to adults for 25+ 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. Come to Paimpol and enjoy an exclusive French immersion homestay with me in Brittany.

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