- Beheading bottles of Champagne at weddings
- Puppet shows on Christmas eve
- Flying Bells leaving Easter Eggs
- Parades and fireworks on Bastille Day
Beheading Bottles of Champagne
A tradition that is popular at weddings is beheading bottles of champagne using a specially-made saber. The tradition originated in the time of Napoleon when the Hussards under the famous general's command began celebrating victories by swinging a sabre and thus neatly slicing the top off a champagne bottle. According to legend, the Hussards, skilled cavalry, would ride up at full gallop to one of the ladies holding up the bottle and with one swipe, behead the bottle.
Many old French traditions are related to the holiday season. Holding a puppet show on Christmas eve is very common and later at midnight, people attend church for the traditional Christmas Mass.
After mass, they have a late Christmas Eve dinner, called le Réveillon (referring to the wake up or revival, alluding to the birth of Christ). Menus for this occasion change according to the region you are in but will usually consist of dishes containing turkey, capon, goose, chicken, and boudin blanc (white sausage).
Children wait for Père Noël (Santa Clause) and leave their shoes out in front of the fireplace, doping presents will fill them by morning. The tree is hung with nuts and candy. Children also believe in Père Fouettard who hands out spankings for anyone who's been naughty.
Called Pâques in France, this is a very important time for the French, who have a strong Christian, and especially Catholic, background. According to tradition, no church bells are rung on the Thursday before Good Friday and remain silent for several days, until on Easter Sunday, they revive. As the bells toll, the custom is for people to hug and kiss each other.
Children don't look for eggs left by an Easter Bunny… rather, the French believe that the Flying Bells leave on the Thursday before Good Friday, taking with them all the grief and misery of mourners of Christ's crucifixion, reaching Rome to see the Pope and then come back on Easter Sunday morning bearing chocolate easter eggs, which are hidden around houses and gardens for children to find.
This is the name used for the French Easter Fish and also comes in a chocolate version. An age-old tradition however, that dates back several centuries, involving the Poisson d'Avril, takes place on April 1st. The great joke is for children to make fish of paper and pin as many as possible to the backs of adults, then run gleefully away yelling “Poisson d'Avril!!”, which is a little like saying “April Fools!”
Celebrated on July 14, this is one of France’s most colorful traditions. The day commemorates the day The Bastille, a prison in Paris that was regarded as the symbol of the much-hated French monarchy of the times, was stormed and pillaged by angry mobs of French citizens in 1789. Called La Fête Nationale, many fireworks are set of as the day goes by, well into the night. Parades are also to be seen with dancing in the streets.
Another interesting tradition of the French is the fact that almost all employees are entitled to 5 weeks of holiday a year. August has been the traditional holiday month in France, with almost all locals clearing out of their cities to venture to other parts of the world or simply to go camping in their own countryside. For those taking their holidays during the winter months, skiing in the French Alps is the way to go.