It’s that time of year again. You’ve decorated your Christmas tree, you’ve wrapped your gifts, you’ve sent out your cards. Next is your Christmas party planning. If it’s your turn to host this year’s Christmas meal, or even if you host it every year, why not make this year unique. Give your guests something to talk about well into the New Year. Add some French sparkle to your Christmas.
The Culture of Noël
Christmas in France is a month long affair. It begins on Christmas Eve with le Réveillon de Noël (the Christmas awakening) and ends in the middle of January with the Feast of Epiphany. Although there may not be as many Santas in the street or carols in the air, the French sure make up for it with their mouth-watering dishes and festive parties.
6 Simple Steps to a French Style Christmas
- Host Your Party on Christmas Eve
Traditionally the biggest Christmas celebration, it often starts with Christmas Mass and ends with a night of feasting and sipping on champagne. Have you been wondering what’s in that shiny red box under the tree? Well, le Réveillon is also the time to open those presents that you’ve been looking at all month long too!
- Ask Your Guests to Dress Formally
Let’s be honest, the French are known for their style. Christmas Eve is no exception. For men it’s a suit complete with, yes you guessed it, a tie. For women it’s a cocktail dress with stockings and heels. Did you say you never get the chance to dress up? Tonight’s the night. So let your hair down and wear that new up-do, put on your party dress and shine those new shoes. Who says you can’t dress up at home?
- Begin the Evening With a French Wine Cocktail
Make a Kir by filling your champagne flute 1/5 with Crème de Cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and 4/5 of your favourite dry white wine. Or better still, swap wine for brut champagne and you have a Kir Royale.
- Serve Your Guests Four Courses, Entrée, Main Meal, Cheese and Dessert
Let your imagination take you away. Entrée could be oysters, lobster, snails, and let’s not forget the ever so famous Foie Gras. For the main course, roasted chicken, turkey, goose or beef will all win-over your guests. Follow with a grandassortiment of French cheese (apparently there is enough for every day of the year). Top it off with a traditional Bûche de Noël, or Yule Log for dessert. Is your mouth watering yet?
- Set Your Table French Style
Did you know that French etiquette for table setting is different to what most are familiar with in English speaking countries? To get your table setting looking chic, I’ve prepared images for you to follow of French formal place setting. Can you spot the differences? Wine glasses are placed directly above each dinner plate according to French table setting etiquette. Warning: be prepared to see the wine glasses make their way back above the knives and spoons by the end of the night. It’s a hard habit to break. Forks are placed tines down. Add an interesting conversation point at your table and adopt the French custom of placing forks tines down. Follow this for spoons too.
- Seat Your Guests Male-Female Alternating, and Don’t Place Couples Together
Seating is quite formal in France. It is the host’s responsibility to tell the guests where to sit. Traditionally, males are seated next to females, and couples are separated so they don’t converse only with each other. As a host, mix your guests to spice up conversation.
Above all, Christmas is a time for you and your family and friends to enjoy together. When your guests are all enjoying their dessert and you have French music playing softly in the background, take a few moments to look around at your table. In 6 simple steps you have just created your very own French style Christmas and have given your guests a Christmas party that they will talk about for many months to come.
Joyeaux Noël everyone!