11 Secrets the French Know About Holiday Entertaining (That You Don't)
The way the French entertain for the holidays is very much like the way they dress: effortless, elegant, and always of good taste. Just like they can throw together the perfect timeless outfit in two and a half minutes, they can throw a smashing dinner party without barely lifting a finger.
There's no denying that the French have a flair for all things food and entertaining—so it would only make sense to turn to them for holiday dinner party ideas. While we're guzzling on eggnog and stuffing ourselves with turkey, our counterparts from across the pond are toasting with champagne and noshing on oysters and caviar. Sound inviting?
It may be time to add a little French flair to your own holiday parties. To enlighten us on the art of French Christmas dinner parties, we tapped Ivan Pericoli and Benoît Astier de Villatte, founders of the pottery brand Astier de Villatte and authors of Ma Vie à Paris, a practical guide on embodying Parisian taste. Bring a certain je ne sais quoi to your holidays this year. Santé!
On Decking the Halls
Start on Christmas Eve
"The holiday season starts on Christmas Eve in France."
"Decorations in France are way less prominent. It is more intimate. The extent our decorations is usually limited to the dining room and the Christmas tree."
Decorate Indoors Only
"Wreaths are quite rare in France, and people do not light the outside of their houses. Christmas is celebrated at home, and all establishments are closed."
Wrap Up Before New Year’s Eve
"Before New Year's Eve, all decorations go back in their respective boxes. The most elegant of parties is New Year's Eve, and it does not involve Christmas decorations—the saying goes, Se mettre sur son 31, which means dress to impress on the 31st."
Showcase Elegant Decor
On Food and Drinks
Swap Eggnog for Champagne
"Eggnog does not exist in France. We prefer Champagne—it goes better with foie gras and salmon."
Indulge in Amuses-Bouche
"To start, we have amuses-bouche: foie gras, smoked salmon, fish eggs or caviar on toast, and oysters."
Mix Up Your Main Course
"Our main course usually consist of roasted poultry (like turkey, goose, or chapon) and large roasted meats—game meat in particular. For sides, we eat roasted chestnuts and celery purée."
Show Off Your Desserts
"Desserts are made to impress in France. They usually consist of Christmas bûche (log), pièces montées (like croquembouche), and marrons glacés."
"Even when there is an abundance of leftovers, doggy bags would never be proposed to a guest."
Skip the Speech
"The French would never deliver a speech or say grace at the table—except for those who have seen too many American movies."
"On New Year's Eve, when midnight strikes, everyone kisses everybody regardless of whether they are close friends or strangers."
Which traditions make your holidays special? Share them with us.