How to Celebrate the New Year like the French

Have you ever celebrated the new year in France?  French people like nothing more than delicious food and good company to start the year. Here are a few traditions you need to be aware of if you plan to celebrate the new year in France.

You will also learn how to say “happy new year” in French.

happy new year in French

 How do French people celebrate the New Year?

After spending time with their family for Christmas, French people like to gather again to celebrate the New Year.

Most French people spend la Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s eve) partying with friends but some prefer a family gathering. In all cases, la Saint-Sylvestre is a highly anticipated event French people take lots of time to organize.

Even though “saint” has a religious meaning, the event doesn’t have any religious significance.

The evening often starts with a traditional dinner including foie gras, oysters, smoked salmon and champagne.

Then, like in many other countries, French people count down to midnight.  Some do it at home while other prefer to go to public countdowns.

You can also admire fireworks in several French cities.

It’s then typical to start the new year by kissing your friends and relatives under the mistletoe. The kind of kiss depends on your relationship with the person. (read: kissing traditions in France)

After this, some people like to party all night.

How to say “Happy New Year” in French?

Contrary to what’s done in other countries, French people rarely wish a “happy new year” before the New Year.

However, be prepared to hear “bonne année” and “joyeuses fêtes” (happy holidays) until February every time you see someone you last saw the year before.

You could also hear “bonne année et bonne santé” (literally: happy year and good health). As you can see, we don’t say “happy new year” in French, but rather “happy year”.

French New Year joke

As said earlier, French people like to wish a happy new year to everyone even several months after the beginning of the year. This is a situation Gad  Elmaleh, a popular French comedian makes fun of in this video (no subtitles sorry).

In case you didn’t understand the video, here is a joke you can regularly hear before and after the new year.

A l’année prochaine

Ah bon ? On se voit pas mardi ?

“A l’année prochaine”, literally “see you next year”. This is something French people love to say when they know they won’t see a person before the end of the year. And as Gad Elmaleh says in the video, it’s not rare to hear “ah bon” (is that so?) just before the person understands the joke. “One se voit pas mardi” means “we don’t see each other on Tuesday?”.

Have you ever celebrated the new year in France? How did it go? How do you celebrate in your country? Share your story in the comments below, I look forward to reading them :).

Bonne année !

Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn the 20% of French that truly matters. You will also find him giving blogging advice on Grow With Less.

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