100 French Christmas words & expressions – all the French Xmas vocabulary & French Christmas terms, decorations, food + audio recordings. Joyeux Noël!
It’s Christmas time! Let’s study lists of French Christmas terms to help you wish a merry Christmas in French to your French friends and discuss your own Christmas traditions!
This article features audio recordings. Click the blue text next to the headphone to hear me say that word or sentence in French.
Note that when applicable, I used a modern spoken French pronunciation.
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:
- Noël (Proper name, so usually used without an article, although masculine) = Christmas
- La veille de Noël – Christmas Eve (don’t mistake “veille”: eve, only one “i”, with “vieille”: feminine adjective for old, two “i”)
- Le jour de Noël – Christmas day
- Passer Noël en famille – to spend Christmas with your family
- Le vingt-cinq décembre – December 25th (here is my article on how to say the date in French)
- Le vingt-quatre décembre – December 24th – Read my article about when the French celebrate Christmas
- Joyeux Noël – Merry Christmas
- Joyeuses fêtes de fin d’année – Happy Holidays
- Envoyer ses voeux de Noël – to send out Christmas wishes
To learn 10 ways to say merry Christmas in French, I invite you to follow the link to another article I wrote with audio.
2 – French Christmas Vocabulary
Let’s see some generic French Christmas vocabulary:
- Le Réveillon de Noël – the Christmas meal and party
- S’embrasser sous le gui – to kiss under the mistletoe
- Décorer la maison – to decorate the house
- Faire des cadeaux – Give away gifts
- Ouvrir des cadeaux – Open presents
- Je vous souhaite un joyeux Noël et d’excellentes fêtes de fin d’année – I wish you a merry Christmas and excellent holidays
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”.
- Un sapin de Noël – Christmas tree (note we don’t use “un arbre” but “un sapin” which is ‘a fir tree’)
- Une boule – ornament (in a ball shape)
- Une décoration de Noël – Christmas Ornament
- Une guirlande – garland
- Une étoile – star
- Une guirlande électrique / une guirlande lumineuse – string of lights
- Une couronne – wreath
- Un bas, une chaussette – stocking
- Le Père Noël – Santa
- Un sucre d’orge – candy cane
- Un bonhomme de neige – snowman
- Un cadeau – gift
- Un renne – reindeer
- De la neige artificielle – fake snow
- Un pochoir – stencil
- Un autocollant – sticker
- Du gui (pronounced hard G + ee) – mistletoe
- Du houx – holly
- Une pomme de pin – pine cone
- Des branches de sapins – fir branches
Here is a video I did in 2019 about Christmas in France. Enjoy!
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.
- Une crèche – a manger (the house)
- Une mangeoire – a manger (where the animals eat)
- Un santon – typical French manger clay figurine made in Provence
- La Vierge Marie – the Virgin Mary
- Le petit Jésus – baby Jesus – here is my article about expressions using Jesus in French
- Un âne – a donkey
- Un boeuf – an ox (note that in France, in the manger is not a cow, but a male ox)
- Un ange – an angel
- Les Rois Mages – the 3 Kings – we have a special French King’s cake called La Galette des Rois
- L’étoile – the star
- Un berger – a shepherd
- Un mouton – a sheep
- Un miracle – a miracle
Would you like to know more about the Christmas Traditions in France? I invite you to follow the link to my article.
5 – More About Christmas in French
- Dieu – God – here is my article about expressions using God in French
- Prier – to pray
- Une prière – a prayer – here is my recording of the Hail Mary in French
- 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.
- Le Père Noël – Santa
- Le Père Fouettard – Father Flog
- Saint Nicolas – Saint Nick
- Un traineau – a sleigh
- Un renne – a reindeer
- Un elf – an elf
- Un cadeau, des cadeaux – gift(s)
- Une cheminée – a chimney – also a hearth, fireplace
- Descendre dans la cheminée – to go down the fireplace
- Écrire une lettre au Père-Noël – to write Santa a letter
- La liste des gentils enfants – the list of good kids
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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.
- 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)
- Le dîner de Noël – the Christmas dinner
- Le déjeuner de Noël – the Christmas lunch
- Faire un festin – to feast
- Se régaler – to have a culinary blast
- Faire la cuisine – to cook
- Préparer un repas fait maison – to cook an home-made meal
- L’apéritif – before meal drinks and finger food
- L’entrée – the first course (apetizers)
- Le plat principal – the main course
- Le fromage – cheese (I don’t think that we have a special Christmas cheese in France)
- Les treize desserts – 13 desserts – a Christmas tradition from Provence
- La Bûche de Noël – Christmas Yule log cake
- Mettre une belle table – to set up a pretty table
- Un centre de table – a center piece decoration
- Des bougies – candles
- Plier les serviettes – to fold napkins
- Des canapés d’apéritif – apetizer toasts
- Du saumon fumé artisanal – small scale produced smoked salmon
- Des huîtres – oysters
- Du foie-gras (frais, poêlé ou en pâté) – foie gras (fresh, pan-fried or served as a pâté)
- La volaille – fowl
- Le gibier – game meat
- Un rôti – a roast
- 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).
- Un jambon fumé au feu de bois – firewood smoked ham
- Un jus de viande – gravy
- Des bredele – typical Alsacien cookies baked at Christmas time
- Des truffes au chocolat – chocolate truffles
- Des marrons glacés – candied chestnuts
- Des marrons chauds – roasted chestnuts
- 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!
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