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Christmas in Paris

How the Holiday's Celebrated in France & What to Expect in Paris

If you're in Paris in December, you'll find streets and shop windows decorated for the season, city squares filled with Christmas trees, and nativity scenes on display in churches where they'll stay until February. Traditional Christmas foods such as smoked salmon, oysters, and Yule Logs are everywhere and many cafés in the more touristy areas stay open on Christmas Day.

Christmas celebrations in France are a family-oriented, traditional affair. In Northeastern France, the festivities tend to start on December 6th, Saint Nicholas Day, with small gifts left in children’s shoes. On Christmas Eve, the rest of France joins in for the main holiday meal which is eaten late, traditionally after midnight mass to celebrate right into Christmas Day. Presents that were left under the tree by Père Noël are unwrapped on Christmas Day morning, and the rest of the day is spent pretty much like everywhere else: seeing family and friends, eating and drinking (too much), and then trying to walk it off in the afternoon.

Paris at Christmastime

If you’re in Paris in December, you’ll find streets and shop windows decorated for the season, city squares filled with Christmas trees, and nativity scenes on display in churches where they’ll stay until February.

Since French Christmas celebrations don’t generally start until late on Christmas Eve, stores stay open and so do many of the Christmas markets around town. Stands with all the traditional Christmas foods such as smoked salmon, oysters, and Yule Logs pop up outside shops, but the lines can be long. Christmas Day is quiet with most boutiques and restaurants closed, but along the Champs Élysées, in Le Marais, and around more popular areas like Saint Germain and Montmartre, some shops are still open and plenty of cafés are ready to welcome you for a hot chocolate.

Although most of the well-known museums close on Christmas Day, the Eiffel Tower stays open and so do a number of smaller museums, including the Musée Montmartre and the Musée Jacquemart-André. The Paris Visitors Bureau publishes a list of open venues every year, so don’t worry, you won’t be left out in the cold. And if you wondered, the buses, metro, and RER do run on Christmas Day, but with reduced frequency.

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