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100 French Christmas Terms

Camille Chevalier-Karfis By Camille Chevalier-Karfis - updated on Aug 22, 2020

100 French Christmas Words and Expressions – all the Christmas French vocabulary for decorations, French religious terms, typical Christmas food… Joyeux Noël!

It’s Christmas time! Let’s study lists of French Christmas terms to help you wish a merry Christmas in French and discuss your own Christmas traditions in French!

1 – How do you Say Christmas in French?

The French translation for Christmas is Noël. Noël is masculine in French, but we usually use it without any article.

Did you know Noël was also a popular French first name?

Noël is for a boy, it’s spelled Noëlle (or Noelle) for a girl and they are both pronounced the same way.

Here are more useful French Christmas terms:

  1. Noël (Proper name, so usually used without an article, although masculine) = Christmas
  2. La veille de Noël – Christmas Eve (don’t mistake “veille”: eve, only one “i”, with “vieille”: feminine adjective for old, two “i”)
  3. Le jour de Noël – Christmas day
  4. Passer Noël en famille – to spend Christmas with your family
  5. Le vingt-cinq décembre – December 25th (here is my article on how to say the date in French)
  6. Le vingt-quatre décembre – December 24th – Read my article about when the French celebrate Christmas
  7. Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas
  8. Joyeuses fêtes de fin d’année – Happy Holidays
  9. Envoyer ses voeux de Noël – to send out Christmas wishes

2 – French Christmas Vocabulary

Let’s see some generic French Christmas vocabulary:

  1. Le Réveillon de Noël – the Christmas meal and party
  2. S’embrasser sous le gui – to kiss under the mistletoe
  3. Décorer la maison – to decorate the house
  4. Faire des cadeaux – Give away gifts
  5. Ouvrir des cadeaux – Open presents
  6. Je vous souhaite un joyeux Noël et d’excellentes fêtes de fin d’année – I wish you a merry Christmas and excellent holidays
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3 – How do You Say a Christmas Ornament in French?

We don’t really have a word for Christmas ornaments: we would say “les décorations de Noël”.

  1. Un sapin de Noël – Christmas tree (note we don’t use “un arbre” but “un sapin” which is ‘a fir tree’)
  2. Une boule – ornament (in a ball shape)
  3. Une décoration de Noël – Christmas Ornament
  4. Une guirlande – garland
  5. Une étoile – star
  6. Une guirlande électrique/ lumineuse – string of lights
  7. Une couronne – wreath
  8. Un bas, une chaussette – stocking
  9. Le Père Noël – Santa
  10. Un sucre d’orge – candy cane
  11. Un bonhomme en pain d’épice – gingerbread man
  12. Un bonhomme de neige – snowman
  13. Un cadeau – gift
  14. Un renne – reindeer
  15. De la neige artificielle – fake snow
  16. Un pochoir – stencil
  17. Un autocollant – sticker
  18. Du gui (pronounced hard G + ee) – mistletoe
  19. Du houx – holly
  20. Une pomme de pin – pine cone
  21. Des branches de sapins – fir branches

4 – What Does “La Crèche” Mean in French?

“Une crèche” – a manger in English – features many little figurines, also called “santons” in Provence, representing towns folks as they gather around the stable for the birth of baby Jesus.

The essential characters of “la crèche” are Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, usually a donkey and an ox, sometimes the 3 kings.

  1. Une crèche – a manger (the house)
  2. Une mangeoire – a manger (where the animals eat)
  3. Un santon – typical French manger clay figurine made in Provence
  4. La Vierge Marie – the Virgin Mary
  5. Joseph
  6. Le petit Jésus – baby Jesus – here is my article about expressions using Jesus in French
  7. Un âne – a donkey
  8. Un boeuf – an ox (note that in France, in the manger is not a cow, but a male ox)
  9. Un ange – an angel
  10. Les Rois Mages – the 3 Kings – we have a special French King’s cake called La Galette des Rois
  11. L’étoile – the star
  12. Un berger – a shepherd
  13. Un mouton – a sheep
  14. Un miracle – a miracle

5 – More About Christmas in French

  1. Dieu – God – here is my article about expressions using God in French
  2. Prier – to pray
  3. Une prière – a prayer – here is my recording of the Hail Mary in French
  4. La messe de Noël – Christmas mass – here is my recording of the French Catholic mass

6 – What About Santa in French?

Did you know France has its own French Santa? He’s Saint Nicolas and he’s at the origin of the Santa Claus legend.

  1. Le Père Noël – Santa
  2. Le Père Fouettard – Father Flog
  3. Saint Nicolas – Saint Nick
  4. Un traineau – a sleigh
  5. Un renne – a reindeer
  6. Un elf – an elf
  7. Un cadeau, des cadeaux – a gift(s)
  8. Une cheminée – a chimney
  9. Une cheminée – a hearth, fireplace
  10. Descendre dans la cheminée – to go down the fireplace
  11. Du lait – milk
  12. Des biscuits – cookies
  13. Écrire une lettre au Père-Noël – to write Santa a letter
  14. La liste des gentils enfants – the list of good kids

7 – Scrumptious French Christmas Food

Of course Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a scrumptious French meal! We have lots of special food delicacies for Christmas in France. I invite you to follow the link to the article I wrote about the French Christmas food.

  1. Le Réveillon de Noël – the French Christmas meal (not to be mistaken with “Le Réveillon du Nouvel-An – New Year’s Eve French meal name)
  2. Le dîner de Noël – the Christmas dinner
  3. Le déjeuner de Noël – the Christmas lunch
  4. Faire un festin – to feast
  5. Se régaler – to have a culinary blast
  6. Faire la cuisine – to cook
  7. Préparer un repas fait maison – to cook an home-made meal
  8. L’apéritif – before meal drinks and finger food
  9. L’entrée – the first course (appetizers)
  10. Le plat principal – the main course
  11. Le fromage – cheese (I don’t think that we have a special Christmas cheese in France)
  12. Les treize desserts – 13 desserts – a Christmas tradition from Provence
  13. La Bûche de Noël – Christmas Yule log cake
  14. Mettre une belle table – to set up a pretty table
  15. Un centre de table – a center piece decoration
  16. Des bougies – candles
  17. Plier les serviettes – to fold napkins
  18. Des canapés apéritif – appetizer toasts
  19. Du saumon fumé artisanal – small scale produced smoked salmon
  20. Des huîtres – oysters
  21. Du foie-gras (frais, poêlé ou en pâté)  – foie gras (fresh, pan-fried or served as a pâté)
  22. La volaille – fowl
  23. Le gibier – game meat
  24. Un rôti – a roast
  25. Une farce aux marrons – a chestnut stuffing – note: there is a confusion in French between “un marron” – a horse chestnut which is not edible, and “une châtaigne” which is a sweet chestnut as is edible. We often use “marron” when really, it is “châtaigne” that are being used (for food).
  26. Un jambon fumé au feu de bois – firewood smoked ham
  27. Un jus de viande – gravy
  28. Des bredele – typical Alsacien cookies baked at Christmas time
  29. Des truffes au chocolat – chocolate truffles
  30. Des marrons glacés – candied chestnuts
  31. Des marrons chauds – roasted chestnuts
  32. Du vin chaud – spiced wine

For the Holidays, Olivier and I recorded a realistic French Christmas dialogue to introduce you to both the French traditions and precise vocabulary used in France around Christmas and the Holidays. Great to practice your French!

Joyeux Noël, et Bonne année !

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