La Saint-sylvestre – new Year’s Eve
La Saint-Sylvestre (or “le réveillon du jour de l’an”) are what we know as New Year’s Eve. It is because the 31st December is the feast day of Saint-Sylvestre in Catholic tradition. However there aren’t really religious elements to the celebration of New Year’s anymore. Dont’t get this mixed up with the Réveillon de Noël! Around this holiday time, the French may also give small presents to their employees or household help. These traditional offerings are called les étrennes.
Like on Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve in France also features an evening meal with family and friends. The menu itself is quite similar between the two holidays, but there is no set menu for New Year’s. You can opt for the classic seafood, meats and gourmet delicacies or change it up with a buffet! Either way in France you know that you’ll eat well. After the meal it’s party time!
There are various options for celebrating La Saint-Sylvestre in France. Many people choose to spend it with their families and friends in a gathering, some choose to have a ‘soirée dansante’ either at home or in a bar/club while others head to public spectacles. In Paris, there is traditionally a light show on the Champs Elysées and festivities around the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre as well. However some towns or villages may organise a ball for the occasion.
Once the clock strikes twelve, you make as much noise as possible with shouts of ‘Bonne année!’ or blow into a noisemaker (un serpentin). If you’ve got someone special, you can also try and give them a kiss under the mistletoe (le gui) at midnight. New Year’s Day is a national holiday, so no need to feel bad about partying too hard! The President also gives a speech on Saint-Sylvestre to describe resolutions for next year. This is diffused across the country for around 20 minutes and might give you an indication of what’s to expect on the political scene.
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