France, or the French Republic, is famous and is one of the most modern countries in north-western Europe. The country is known for its classic art history, sophisticated French cuisine, wines, French fashion houses, French culture, and French traditions. French culture is a combination of Celtic, Roman, and Germanic cultures.
France is a country with diverse cultures, long history, and varied geology, which has influenced the living style of people here to a great extent.
In France, the vast majority of people speak French. If you are visiting France and want to experience their customs and traditions, then it would be advised to learn French. But, till then, this article gives insight into some of the most popular French traditions.
France has given birth to a large number of French customs and traditions that are followed by French people even today. Some are regarded as French national traditions, while others are regional ones. Let’s peep into French life and society to find out in detail about their popular French traditions.
Popular French Traditions
Some of the popular French traditions are mentioned below. If you plan to visit France, try to be a part of at least some of these traditions.
1. Bastille Day
Bastille day is one of the most famous French traditions celebrated on the 14th of July. This day is celebrated as independence day and celebrated as a national holiday practised with parades and fireworks in Paris and all over the country.
The 14th of July is known as the storming of Bastille prison and the end of Feudalism that later sparked the French revolution. The French people who were fighting against Feudalism attacked the military prison at Bastille and overthrew the ruling government during that time.
This day is regarded as a very important day in the history of France.
2. Mardi Gras
Mardi gras is a famous French tradition that includes events of the Carnival celebration in France and many other parts of the world. It is celebrated for days by partying and feasting, where people participate in their most elaborate costumes. Several parades are organised over the downtown area.
The meaning of Mardi Gras in French is fat Tuesday. There is a custom in France to use all the fats in-house before the LENT as preparation for the fasting period. This French tradition is followed in New Orleans, Columbia, Brazil, Venice, Italy, the Caribbean, and many other parts of the world from mid-January to the starting week of February.
Mardi Gras is a French term in which Mardi means Tuesday and Gras mean fat. So on this special Tuesday, people eat in excess before starting their fasting period of Lent of 40 days.
This tradition began in 1699 when some French explorers arrived in the area of New Orleans for the first time. Their arrival was celebrated with a huge celebration known as Mardi Gras.
3. Saint Catherine’s Day
Saint Catherine’s day is among the most famous French traditions, celebrated every year on the 5th of November. The girls are 25 years of age and still are honoured on this day by their friends or colleagues. They are given beautiful cards, decorative hats (yellow or green), or any other gift as a token of good luck on this day.
Saint Catherine’s day or the Old maid’s day is an ancient French tradition celebrated to honour the catherinette.
It is believed that in the 4th century Saint Catherine, a philosopher and a saint, was seduced by the emperor, but after her rejection, she was martyred by the emperor.
She was recognised as the leader saint of the catherinette. Later in the middle ages, 25-year-old single girls and maids, also known as Catherinettes, took a pilgrimage to the statue of Saint Catherine.
Now, this day is celebrated as a holiday and in a fun way by making single girls feel special.
4. French New Wave
French new wave tradition is a French cinematic tradition that started after world war ii, which is also considered a big step in the history of French filmmaking. The new wave movement aimed to give directors full control over their work.
This movement became more popular in the late 1950s in France. It began in Paris when a group of film critics stood against the big film studios controlling the film’s creative process.
The aim was to retain the artistic identity in every film. It also ensured that they could express their thoughts and ideas freely in French films. So, it was decided that the director should be given full control of the filmmaking.
5. Wine Harvest
Wine harvest is one of the famous French traditions in France, celebrated especially during the months from August to October; as we all know, France is well known for its wines. So this is a big harvest festival in France.
Wine production started in France during the 6th century by Romans. Since then, France has maintained this huge harvesting process of wine and celebrates it as an occasion. Wine-producing grapes are cultivated in a large area, and all styles of wines, including rose, white, and red wine, sweet, or fortified wines, are harvested on a large scale.
6. La Bise
Faire La Bise is one of the most peculiar French traditions. It is an art of greeting in French culture. Bise means kiss; La bise refers to the light kissing on the cheeks of friends or family members.
Nowadays it’s common to greet your colleagues with a bonjour and a cheek kiss, i.e. La bise. One can kiss one, two, or three times. It is considered perfectly ok to kiss the cheeks of females to their male friends in France, and there is nothing romantic about it.
Women kiss or give a bise to their male friends, and French men give a bise to their female friends or close male friends else they shake hands.
Romans earlier started this French tradition. Later they spread this custom through Europe and North Africa with their growing empire.
7. April Fish
One of the funniest French traditions is the April fish or the April fool’s day which is celebrated on 1st April. It is also called Poisson d’Avril!
On this day, mostly the children play pranks on adults by sticking a paper fish on the back of any stranger. As that person finds a paper fish sticking on his back, the child runs away and shouts Poisson d’avril” ( April fool).
April fool day began in France. After adopting the Gregorian calendar, the new year should begin on the 1st of April. So, on the 1st of April, the French used to joke or make fun of those who had not yet adopted the Gregorian calendar.
People also used to send cards and greetings to their dear ones on this day, wishing them a happy new year.
8. Galette Des Rois
Galette des Rois is one of the sweet French traditions celebrated on the 6th of January, the 12th day of Christmas, or the first Sunday after the 1st of January.
Galette de Rois is a sweet dish that looks like a pie and is also known as the king’s cake. It is a large pastry with a layer of frangipane or sweet almond paste.
The secret is that a piece of antique “five” is hidden inside this cake before serving it and whoever gets that five is the winner.
It is a 300-year-old French tradition.
This day was celebrated on the arrival of the Magi- the three kings to the birthplace of Jesus Christ, Bethlehem, who were served this special dish.
Since then, this special sweet dish has been prepared and served in different parts of France.
9. Pacte Civil De Solidarite
France reflecting its secular nature, has a tradition for the French couples to choose Pacte civil de solidarité. It is slightly different from traditional marriage.
It is a contract between two adults to organise their communal life without getting married. The two people could be of either the opposite or the same sex. This union grants almost similar benefits to the couple in a traditional marriage. It can also be dissolved easily by giving a notice or marrying someone else.
This tradition is becoming more popular among homosexual couples.
10. French Fashion Paris
Paris is home to several fashion houses and high-standard brands, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Hermes, and Dior. It is regarded as the fashion capital of the world.
Mostly French people can be seen dressed up in a very sophisticated and professional manner. They always prefer to carry a fashionable style.
Women wear skirts, scarves, high heels, and other nice dresses. Men carry suits, long coats, and typical outfits.
Paul Poiret, a well-known designer of the 20th century, introduced Eastern influences to amazing haute couture creations. He was referred to as the king of fashion as he introduced French women to new styles of harem pants and billowing kimonos. He also designed beautiful turbans and sultana skirts.
Apart from Poiret, designers like Dior, Chanel, and others have contributed lots to French fashion traditions.
11. La Chandeleur
La Chandeleur is a superstitious French tradition performed on the 2nd of February and is considered the last cycle of the Christmas celebration when you eat crêpes. It is also famous as Candlemass.
This day is celebrated in France to foresee future luck. According to this, you need to hold a coin in one hand and flip crepe in another hand. The upcoming year will be prosperous if you succeed in flipping crepes without falling on the floor.
The 2nd of February was the day Jesus was presented at the temple in Jerusalem, and Christians celebrated it by bringing candles to the church. This day is also known as Candlemass.
Around the 5th century, Candlemass was celebrated with crêpes. Pope Gelasius started this tradition. Since then, on this religious holiday, crêpes can be seen everywhere.
12. Le Goûter
Le Goûter is quite an old French tradition. The word Goûter means to taste. French people are very disciplined about their meals. Their lunchtime is around 1 pm, and dinner is around 8 pm. Between these two meals, they follow the tradition of Le Goûter, which is around 4 pm.
Especially for French children, this snack time is religiously related to developing this habit of snacking at around 4 pm. At this time, French children eat some snacks and take a break from work.
13. French Food Traditions
French cuisine is famous worldwide because of some special French cooking techniques. French people give more importance to their lunches and dinners than breakfasts, and cheese is one of their food’s most commonly used ingredients.
They prioritise healthy meals, and even the children eat the same food as adults. You will not find any separate menu for your kids. They eat from the main menu only. Forget the chicken nuggets or fish fingers.
Children in France are also allowed to drink alcohol. Children are offered to try a little wine at the dinner table. And, there is no minimum drinking age set for children in France.
Wines and beers are an integral part of their dinner parties. But there is a custom that you should not take wine to any dinner party as the host arranges the wines.
Enjoying apero in late afternoons is a common French tradition. It is a pre-dinner drink and snack. Though the food and drinks served change with the region.
Entrée is the main dish in other parts of the world, but it’s the appetiser in France.
They serve beverages at normal room temperature instead of serving them very chilled.
French breakfast is generally very light. During lunch and dinner, they have four courses, including starters, a salad, a main course, and then any cheese or dessert course.
14. French Traditions For Language
Almost every citizen in France speaks French as it is their official language. Apart from France, this language is famous worldwide, and people consider French one of the most learned foreign languages in the world.
French is France’s first language, i.e. around 88% of the population speak French. Only 3 per cent of people in France speak German. Italian is the second language of some people who reside near the Italian borders. The third language is Arabic, spoken by the minority.
Apart from this, regional languages like Occitan and Alsatian are also spoken in France.
Whatever the language they use, there is a tradition of speaking in quiet tones.
15. French Art
French culture is deeply inclined toward Art, which you can spot in their several public buildings, churches, and other monuments in Paris and other major cities.
One of the world’s most famous museums is the Louvre museum in Paris which showcases famous artworks. Some world fame artworks are the painting of the Mona Lisa and Venus De Milo.
The best works of the world’s most popular artists Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, and Paul Cézanne, are showcased in the fine arts museums and attract numerous visitors.
Paris is also an example of some of the world’s most beautiful architecture, namely The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre museum. This beautiful city has several amazing architectures, including Roman, medieval, Renaissance, Nouveau, and Baroque styles.
16. French Traditions And Customs In Family
Some of the french traditions and customs in a family are mentioned below.
There is a wedding tradition in which someone has to behead bottles of real Champagne with the help of a specially made sabre. Croquembouche is the traditional wedding cake made up of pastries or macarons piled into a cone and fixed with spun sugar and threads of caramel.
French people do not in having a relationship outside their marriage. The practice of extramarital affairs is very common in France.
Baby showering is not so common in France. There is a tradition of showering the expecting mother with new gifts and items after the baby’s birth. A case of wine representing the baby’s birth year is the most common gift in France.
One more tradition: the new father gifts diamond jewellery to the new mother.
Some More Traditional Holidays
The people of France also celebrate some traditional holidays. They are mentioned below.
World war ii victory day is celebrated annually in France on the 8th of May as a national and a public holiday. This day is an unforgettable day in the history of France that led to the end of World war ii and the freedom of the French people.
All Saints Day
The tradition of All Saints Day in France is known as Toussaint and is celebrated on the 1st of November. It is a public holiday, and the tradition is that the family members come together on this day to honour their dearly departed.
Armistice Day is considered a day of a national holiday in France. It is celebrated on the 11th of November to remember those who died or got injured in World war i.
So friends, above we elaborated some of the most followed and celebrated French traditions which are not only famous in France but some of them are worldwide famous. These traditions have been followed by generations after generations for years and have helped sustain the originality and beauty of French culture.