In France, New Years 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 T.V.
More often than not, the vast majority of French choose to celebrate new years eve with a feast called le Reveillon, with friends and family. Be prepared because if you are ever invited to a French New Years Eve gathering with food, you will no doubt see at least one of the food items listed below which some people say is weird French food.
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. Every year since being in France, we have eaten oysters during the new year. We often eat it at Christmas too. They say it’s an aphrodisiac.
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 activist 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.
So wide spread is foie gras, you will never have a hard time finding it at a food store in France. It’s even served to children at school for their end of year Christmas meal. At least it is at my children’s schools
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. Optional; grab one and pinch off the head before sucking down the juices if you dare.
You might also find raw cockles, mussels and even raw sea urchin. I will admit I had a hard time eating raw mussels despite the fact that I lived in Japan for years and enjoy sushi.
You knew it was coming; snails, a French delicacy rarely served outside of French cuisine.
More than half of all the sales of escargots in France (notably with butter and parsley) is sold around the end of the year. And contrary to belief, not all French people eat escargot. Typically the French that do eat them, rarely do so outside of special dinners or holidays. I often see escargot sold in bags in the frozen food section at my local grocery store where I live in France. Despite the fact that I do enjoy escargot, I can’t bring myself to actually cooking it.
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. I actually enjoy it 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 will have the pleasure of drinking Champagne. France is after all the birth place 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.
Real Champagne is produced exclusively in the Champagne region of France. 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, these are not really big deals, rather here are little things you should be aware of.
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).
While you are kissing everyone, if you happen to see mistletoe (gui pronounced Gee) hanging than be prepared to kiss someone. That’s right, this tradition which most of us know to happen during Christmas actually happens On New Years Eve in France. Bizarre non not to the French?
DON’T: say Happy New Year until….
Unlike in the United States and Canada, French people DO NOT wish one another Happy New years in advance before 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 say 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 and yes there is a special day where the French celebrate and eat crepes but New years eve is not one of them.
See my article about crepe day (Chandeleur) which occurs on the 2nd of February. (Link coming soon).
Bonne Année everyone.
We had a quiet new years eve feast with friends and ate at least some of the things I listed in this article. Hiccup!
What would you do if you had to eat one of the things on this list that you did not like?