New Year’s Eve in France - La Saint Sylvestre

French Vocabulary and Traditions for New Year Eve in France

New Year In France
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New Year in France is celebrated during the evening of December 31 (le trente-et-un décembre) to January 1st (le premier janvier) : people gather as a family, with their friends, or as a community.

New Year’s Eve in France - La Saint Sylvestre

New Year’s Eve is also called “La Saint Sylvestre”, because it’s Sylvester’s saint day. In France, each day of the year is allocated to a Saint (like for me, Saint Camille is July 14th, the same day as Bastille’s day…).

 Turns out that December 31st is Saint Sylvester’s day, so we also call this day “LA Saint Sylvestre”, standing for “la fête de Saint Sylvestre”.

Le Jour de l’An

New Year’s would also be called “le jour de l’an”, or more precisely “le réveillon du jour de l’an” when referring to New Year's eve.

Traditions for New Years Eve In France

We don’t have that many traditions for New Year Eve in France. The most important one would be kissing under the mistletoe (le guy, pronounced hard G + ee sound), and counting down to midnight.

There is nothing like the ball dropping down on Time Square though, but often there is going to be a big variety show on TV with France’s most famous singers. Their might be fireworks or a parade if you are in a bigger city. 

New Year Eve is traditionally spent with friends, and dancing might be involved. The French like to dance! Many towns and community will also organise a ball.

The party will be dressy, or often be costumed, and at the stroke of midnight, everybody will kiss (on the cheek twice of four times (unless they are romantically involved). People may also throw "des cotillons" (confetti, streamer rubans), blow in "un serpentin" (a streamer attached to a whistle), shout and applaud...

in other words, make some noise!

Les Résolutions du Nouvel An - New Year Resolutions

And of course, French people make New Year’s resolutions. In your list of course will be improving your French, maybe even scheduling a trip to France?

French Meal For New Year

The Meal will be a feast: Champagne is a must, good wines, oysters, foie gras… There is no typical French food for the New Year, and people may decide to cook whatever they feel like, or even do something "buffet" style if they are having a party, but it will be delicious gourmet food, for sure. And if you are not careful and drink too much, you may end up with a serious "gueule de bois" (hangover).

Typical New Year Gifts in France

People don't traditionally exchange gifts for the new year, although I know some people who do. However, around Christmas / new year time, it is traditional to give some money to the postal workers, the police, a house employee, a nanny... It is called "les etrennes" and how much you give is really variable (to your own generosity and ability...)

Typical French New Year Greetings

It is still customary to send out new year greetings. The most typical one would be:

“Bonne année et bonne santé”
Happy new year and good health.

I invite you to visit this article for more typical New Year Greetings in French (with English translation).

French New Year Vocabulary

  • le Jour de l'An - New Year's Day
  • la Saint-Sylvestre - New Year's Eve
  • Bonne Année ! - Happy New Year!
  • Bonne année et bonne santé ! - Happy New Year and Good health!
  • Une bonne résolution - New Year's resolution
  • Le repas du Nouvel An - New Year's Meal
  • Le gui (hard G + ee) - mistletoe
  • Les confettis, les cotillons - confetti
  • Un serpentin - a streamer attached to a whistle
  • Deux mille seize (de meel sayz) 2016

To all my followers, je vous souhaite une excellente nouvelle année 2016, pleine de bonheur et de succès en français.

To all my followers, I wish you an excellent new year 2016, full of happiness and success in French.

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