2 unusual ways the French mark Christmas

Dec 9, 2021

From abseiling Santas to floating choirs and mechanical elephants, the French do have some unusual Christmas customs that need explaining.

You may know all about the Christmas markets, or even that there’s something of an oyster frenzy at this time of year – but have you heard about the couture Christmas trees in Paris or the thirteen different Christmas desserts in Provence? 

Here’s a closer look at 12 unusual French Christmas traditions.

Floating carol singers in Colmar

In the Little Venice of Colmar in northeastern France, children decked out in red Santa hats sing Christmas carols on boats along the canal. They make four stops throughout the city centre, performing four or five songs each time to the audience gathered on the quays. 

“Many of them only join the choir for this event,” director Evelyne Fleck told Source d’Initiatives Magazine. “What they really love is singing all huddled together on the boats, in the cold at night in front of large crowds.”

Santa’s Descent In 1966, the northern city of Douai became the first to feature the spectacle of Santa Claus rappelling down the belfry tower with his elves as the town looks on.  About a dozen climbers rappel down the tower for the event each year. Last year a young man fell to his death during a rehearsal for the event. This year (and last year), Santa descended from the Hotel du Dauphin instead, much to the chagrin of some locals.

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