French New Years Traditions

22nd November, 2017
Around the world, there are many different traditions and events performed to celebrate bringing in the New Year. As a public holiday, New Years in France, known as la Saint-Sylvestre and le Jour de l’An, features a number of exciting gatherings and customs for the day. We take a look at some of the most common French New Years traditions.  


It is becoming more and more popular in France to take a mini cruise on New Year’s Eve. While some take short trips along the Seinne, and other rivers throughout France, others take to the seas. The demand is becoming quite high for this, so if you feel like celebrating the new year in the middle of the ocean, then ensure you book in advance.  

House Party

Typically, New Years celebrations in France tend to be more private affairs. House and dinner parties are preferred over going out. Costume parties are a common theme at this time of year if not, dressing smartly for the special occasion is often the norm. As it’s France, there will, of course, be an almost never-ending supply of food and bubbly. 

Somewhat confusingly, the meals eaten on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve are both known as Le Reveillon in France. To make it simpler (or perhaps more confusing,) the New Years Eve meal is also referred to as la Saint-Sylvestre or le reveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre. This festive feast typically involves several courses, which can take over four hours to eat! Starter courses involve caviar, foie gras and oysters, while goose or turkey is served up as a main dish. Champagne is obviously also a must at these dinners, with plenty of bubbles being poured throughout the night. According to French traditions, this dinner is said to bring good luck to those in attendance.  

In addition to the meal, another food-based tradition in France around the New Year is La Galette des Rois, or King’s Cake. This involves a puff pastry case and lid, filled with frangipane, which is made from eggs, butter, sugar and ground almonds. A lucky charm, such as a coin or small figurine, is baked within the cake, and the person who finds it in their slice becomes ‘King’ for the day, and wears a paper crown that accompanies the cake.  

Street Party

If you’re not attending a house party, and you don’t fancy splashing out a rather inordinate amount of money to get into a club on La Saint-Sylvestre, then just hit the streets. Thousands of locals gather in the city streets to celebrate the New Year together, and these celebrations are free. Paris has three very popular locations for such celebrations; by the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-Élysées and at the Sacré-Coeur. To make it even better, public transport in the big cities will all be free!  

When the clock strikes twelve, the French kiss each other on both cheeks, as they do for a greeting. Cheers of ‘Bonne Année!’ will fill the streets. Depending on your location, there may be fireworks, however, many French cities have banned them due to the dangers, so don’t be too disappointed if the new year doesn’t start with a bang.  

New Years Day
Of course, the celebrations continue during the first day of the new year. Parades are quite common throughout France, with performers leading processions through the streets. Paris has a two-day long parade, with local performers, as well as some more known singers and dancers. They march through various Parisian streets before ending by the Eiffel Tower. If you don’t fancy joining in one of these parades yourself, then you can always stay in and be cosy, watching the excitement happen on TV.  


Don’t worry about sending your French friends Christmas cards; it’s not really the tradition for them. Instead be sure to get some New Year’s greeting cards ready, as these will be exchanged on the day, and throughout the first month of the year.  

If you are looking for 2017 New Years Eve villas, France has numerous fantastic places to stay, which will have incredible views of the New Year celebrations. How are you going to celebrate the new year? Let us know via social media.