In France, New Year’s Eve, known as “La Saint-Sylvestre” or “réveillon de l’an”, is celebrated in a variety of ways.
Some people like to organize costume parties with dancing while others like to have a quiet evening doing nothing more than snuggling up in front of the TV. Many of our friends like to invite friends and family over to ring in the new year with a feast called “le Reveillon”.
If you are ever lucky enough to be invited to a French persons new years eve party, there are a few things you need to know about what might be served. In particular, the typical or traditional foods served.
I hope you like oysters (les huitres – “lay zueetr”), because every year about 80 thousand tonnes of oysters are consumed in France during the festivities of the new year. They are literally every year during the holiday season leading up to New Years.
In the supermarket, at Christmas markets. It can also be served for holiday meals around Christmas too.
2- FOIE GRAS (fwa gra):
Foie Gras which literally means “fat liver” is defined by French law as the liver of a duck or goose fattened by force-feeding with a feeding tube.
Despite the controversy set around the method of producing foie gras by force-feeding, which most animal activists say is torture for the animals, Foie gras is gleefully gobbled up by both French children and adults across France all year round, especially during Christmas and New Years.
It’s even served to school-aged children for the end of year Christmas meal which is probably why my primary school aged daughter loves it so much. As for me, I love to eat it too but have a hard time eating it ever since I learned how the animals are tortured. But that’s just me.
3- CRUSTACÉS et COQUILLAGES
If you are really lucky, your host spared no expense and in addition to oysters, he or she put out a platter of a variety of shell fish and crustacean over ice.
If you see prawns (Gambas) on the platter, don’t be surprised to see the heads, eyes and antennae still attached to prawns which you eat by pinching off the head and suck out the juice if you dare before eating the actual flesh.
You might also find raw cockles, mussels and raw sea urchin.
Snails, known as escargot in France is a French delicacy rarely served outside of French cuisine except maybe in Asia. I particularly like Feuilletés-d’escargots for the new years Meal. Think of it as a puff pastry filled with escargot and cream. You can’t even tell you are eating snails. Here is a nice recipe in French for Feuilletés d’escargots aux cèpes).
Contrary to popular belief, not all French people eat escargot but for those that do eat them, they usually do so around special dinners or holidays like New Years and Christmas which explains why more than half of all escargot sales in France are sold around the end of the year.
I think the most popular saveur is butter and parsley.
You can easily find escargot at any grocery store in France sold in cans or in the frozen section. Or you could opt for a farm fresh version by searching the internet.
5-SAUMON FUMÉ (smoked salmon):
If you can’t stand the thought of eating escargot, raw oysters or mussels than you might want to stick to the smoked salmon dishes (Saumon Fumé)- almost always served cold often on petite canapés with chives and crème fraîche.
And finally, if you hate raw oysters and can’t stand smoked salmon, at least you know you’ll have the pleasure of drinking Champagne. France is after all the birthplace of Champagne.
If by chance you don’t see the words Champagne printed on the label of bubbly you happen to be drinking but instead see the words “CREMANT”, don’t worry. Crémant is actually sparkling wine which is just like champagne.
In 1891, the French made it illegal for any vineyard not in the Champagne region to make a drink called “champagne” so although a vineyard may use the same techniques to produce their bubbly beverage unless they are physically located in the Champagne region of France, they cannot legally call their drink Champagne. Boo.
DO’S, DONT’S AND GREETINGS
Finally, here are a few things you should be aware of. Not really deal breakers-just nice to know customs on how to celebrate New Years like a French person.
You might be interested in reading about 15 Fabulous French New Year’s Eve and New Years Day Traditions
DO: Kiss under the mistletoe?
At midnight after the countdown, everyone cries “Bonne Année”! (happy new year) and everyone, AND I MEAN E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E kisses one another (see my article on French kissing).
That’s right, this tradition which most of us know to happen during Christmas actually happens On New Year’s Eve in France.
DON’T: say Happy New Year until the actual…
Unlike in the United States and Canada, French people DO NOT wish one another Happy New years in advance of the new year. Instead, in the weeks and days leading up to New Years people say……………
”Bonnes fêtes de fin d‘année” which literally means “Happy end of year celebrations” but idiomatically it means Happy Holidays.
It’s only on the day of or after the 1st of January that you actually say “Bonne Année” (Happy New Year).
MISCONCEPTION: The French don’t eat Crepes on new years.
I have seen several articles plastered across the web that says French people in France eat crepes (very thin pancakes) for new years. This just is not true.
Yes, the French eat crepes and can eat them all year round but there is one particular day where it is the tradition to eat crepes and that is on chandeleur which happens to fall on groundhog day.
Bonne Année everyone.