Home for the holidays: Noël à la française

Christmas with Chez Pluie

In the heart of holiday merriment, the French Christmas dining table stands as a beacon of elegance, drawing inspiration from antique charm and the timeless allure of French traditions. Explore the considered details that compose this exquisite tableau, from the thoughtfully set table to the adorned mantlepiece, the twinkling Christmas tree, ambient lighting, and, of course, the pièce de résistance – an indulgent French Christmas menu that captures the essence of gastronomic celebration.

The French Christmas Table: Elegance Redefined

A stately antique French dining table takes center stage showcasing its timeworn oak. Accompanying it are Bentwood chairs by Thonet, infusing a hint of bistro chic into the dining room with their sophisticated casualness. The table is adorned with a red and white country-style checkered runner, while rattan place mats add texture and complement the tone of the chairs. Vintage crystal stemware catches the light, reflecting the intricate detailing of Napoleon III candelabras, complete with cherubic figures gracing their bases. A green garland, delicately adorned with fairy lights, weaves its enchanting trail, adding a refreshing touch to the festive scene.

French Christmas tablescape with antiques

French Christmas table decorating ideas

The French Hearth

The hearth transforms into a visual symphony with a garland of pinecones and cinnamon sticks entwined around antique candlesticks. A silver wine cooler becomes a dazzling vessel for vibrant red amaryllis blooms. Adding a whimsical touch is a straw donkey, reminiscent of the traditional manger scene, introducing a rustic charm to the mantlepiece.

The Christmas Tree: A Tapestry of Lights and Ornaments 

The Christmas tree, a beacon of seasonal joy, is bedecked with warm white lights, red and silver mercury glass baubles, and locally crafted handmade decorations. White ribbon delicately weaves between the branches, while the tree-top star emanates a warm glow, courtesy of nestled fairy lights within. The tree stands in a wrought iron basket in the shape of a Medici urn – the focal point of the room.

French themed Christmas decorating ideas

Christmas Lighting with antiques

An antique copper lantern, suspended low over the dining table, contributes to the intimate ambiance. Its warm glow harmonizes with the luminosity of the garland on the table the lights on the Christmas tree. Candlesticks and candelabras adorning the mantlepiece and table flicker, casting a cozy, inviting atmosphere. The cut crystal stemware refracts the light, creating a mesmerizing multiplying effect, adding a touch of enchantment to the tablescape.

French Christmas Menu: Hearty French country winter fare with delicacies woven in


The French Christmas dining experience transcends mere indulgence. French Champagne is served with aperitifs featuring fresh black truffles on grilled sliced baguette, homemade foie gras with fig jam and onion confit, thinly sliced charcuterie, and crunchy black radish drizzled with local olive oil and fleur de sel from The Camargue.

Entrée and Main Course

For the entrée, savor a pea and mint soup crafted from snap-frozen spring peas sprinkled with crumbled feta. The main course unfolds with a roasted guinea fowl basted in sparkling white wine, accompanied by roasted winter vegetables and a crisp leafy salad dressed in a classic French vinaigrette. Uncork a Grand Cru from Burgundy to compliment these flavorful dishes.

A classic French cheese board (cheese is eaten before dessert in France)

One of the most pleasurable things to arrange is a classic French cheeseboard – a delightful assortment of artisanal cheeses paired with dried figs, juicy apricots, sweet late harvest muscatels, and roasted almonds. Make sure you take the cheese out of the refrigerator at least four hours before serving to ensure that it is at it’s most gooey and tasty when the time comes! If your guests are timid and don’t want to make the first slice – cut one slice from each cheese – this will encourage people to try everything while also demonstrating how to cut each of the different types of cheeses – there is a rule book!

Here are some traditional cheeses that can be enjoyed at Christmas – serve with either white or red wine (Burgundy is perfect), crusty warmed baguette and grainy crunchy crackers.

Brie: A soft and creamy cheese with a velvety rind, Brie is known for its rich, buttery flavor. It hails from Meaux, in the Île-de-France region and is a staple on French cheeseboards. Remember, if it is not from Meaux, it does not follow the rules of the AOP, so it won’t be as tasty!

Camembert: Another creamy delight, Camembert features a white, bloomy rind and a smooth, gooey interior. This Normandy cheese has a robust and earthy flavor profile. Again, watch out for imitation Camembert and be sure to choose Camembert de Normandie (AOP).

Roquefort: A blue cheese from the South of France, Roquefort is made from sheep's milk. Its distinctive blue veins impart a sharp, tangy taste, making it a pungent and flavorful choice.

Comté: A firm and nutty cheese, Comté is produced in the Jura region. Aged for various periods, it can range from mild and slightly sweet to intensely savory, appealing to a broad range of palates. Choose either a 12- or 18-month Comté – you will taste the difference!

Chèvre (Goat Cheese): France is renowned for its diverse array of goat cheeses. These can vary in texture and flavor, from the crumbly and tangy Bucheron to the creamy and herb-infused Crottin de Chavignol.

Dessert - save room!

Open another bottle of French Champagne to celebrate the grand finale, dessert unveils a Bouche de Noël and the 13 desserts of Provence, a rich assortment encapsulating the spirit of a French Christmas feast.

The "Les Treize Desserts de Noël" or the "Thirteen Desserts of Provence" is a traditional Christmas custom in the Provence region of France. This delightful assortment symbolizes Christ and the Twelve Apostles and is typically served on Christmas Eve. The specific desserts may vary slightly, but the core elements include:

Dates: Representing the fruits of the Holy Land.

Calisson d'Aix: An almond-shaped candy made with almonds and candied fruit.

Pain d'épices: A spiced bread or gingerbread.

Nougat Blanc: A soft white nougat made with almonds and honey.

Nougat Noir: A dark nougat made with nuts and honey.

Quince Paste: A sweet jelly made from quince fruit.

Fruit Candies: Candied fruits like oranges, citron, and melons.

Pompe à l'huile: A festive bread made with olive oil.

Biscotins: Small almond biscuits.

Oreillettes: Fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Grapes: Symbolizing the Eucharist.

Walnuts and Hazelnuts: Representing humility and the hardships of life.

Raisins: A reminder of the wine enjoyed during the Last Supper.

Sharing these desserts is not only a culinary delight but also a way to come together with family and friends, celebrating the spirit of Christmas in Provence.

In this enchanting setting, where antique elegance converges with festive cheer, every element collaborates to compose a symphony for the senses. The French Christmas dining experience beckons, inviting you to revel in the art of celebration, gastronomy, and timeless tradition. Santé!

With a full belly, soak up the French Christmas town and market atmosphere as you browse this detailed Christmas article and the Chez Pluie website, which offer a wide range of holiday gifts and ideas on how to give your home a special festive French and restorative makeover this year.

Visit the website's cheering Gifts collection for inspiration on thoughtful presents and while you're there, treat yourself! For your friends who love all things French, see Chez Pluie's recommended gifts for Francophiles

The modern mailbox can serve equally as well as the chimney: Chez Pluie offers a streamlined shipping service. We send beautifully wrapped gifts directly to the recipient, or to you if you prefer to hand the present in person. 

 French Christmas table decor with antiques

Yuletide trimmings help add to the celebratory anticipation of welcoming family and friends into your home at Christmas. Read on for festive home and tablescape decorating tips and creative decorating activities that can involve the whole family -- see #7 and #8 for a special French surprise!

1. Decorating idea: French Christmas glow

Bring winter cheer to your neighbors and guests as they walk up to the front door by warming the exterior of your home with lanterns, pillows, throws, and lights.

Above is an antique French lantern with a lovely chocolate brown patina which is in stock at Chez Pluie at the moment. It can be carried or hung by the handle on the top. Breaking the winter chill with its warm glow, it would look delightful lit near a threshold outside. 

Cozy inside! The above pair of illuminated lanterns bring some warmth to this airy and calm interior.


2. Decorating idea: the salon

This minimal, shabby-chic living room brings a touch of Noël with beautiful green foliage draped over the large window. The quintessential French rustic three-legged cutting block is used as a side table and made festive with an enamel water pitcher Christmas tree.

Draped across the mantelpiece pictured above are conifer leaves, ranunculus, and Christmas amaryllis. Recreate this stunning floral arrangement using unique vessels from Chez Pluie. The lives of beautiful bulbs such as paperwhites and amaryllis can be extended by leaving them intact and growing them in a small pot concealed in a jardinière bowl.

At the moment, there is a pair of exquisite antique French brass candlesticks in stock that will brighten up a mantelpiece or tablescape.

Use natural focal points in your home, such as mantelpieces, to decorate for the festive season. Mirrors look especially great, reflecting light from holiday candles and other decorations. Chez Pluie always has a fantastic range of mirrors to choose from, so we invite you to browse the full range of mirrors.

3. Decorating idea: Christmas trees, the more, the merrier!

Christmas greening of both interiors and exteriors can be achieved using planted Medici urns, planters, baskets, and rustic fruit boxes. Leave bare for a full green effect, or adorn the sprigs with tinsel and decorations!

Beautiful antique urns are practical alternatives to the traditional Christmas tree stand. Authentic urns, like the one from Castelnaudary (pictured above), are heavy and sturdy and can adapt to holiday-themed use with ease.

The forest greens and earthy browns in the interior (pictured above) are so calming, festive, fresh, and restorative at the same time.

Above is a lovely pair of weighty cast iron decorative urns from Chez Pluie that could be used as the base for a small Christmas tree.

Chez Pluie always has an extensive range of Medici urns (like the pair pictured above) available online.

4. Decorating idea: a French Christmas tablescape

Spectacular table arrangements can be achieved by selecting table décor in a color you love or one of the festive colors and arranging to chic effect. Antique candlesticks, crystal stemware, and interesting vases or preserving jars are some ways to make your Christmas table feel special and comforting.  

The luminous table setting at La Fleur Bleue in Provence (pictured above) mixes vintage and modern elements - characterful chairs are tucked under the table while an alluring variety of clear and colored-glass vessels adorn the tabletop. Evidently, choosing glass as the main design theme can make a stylish, enchanting, and, depending on your taste, minimalist tablescape.

Play with adding apothecary and old preserving jars, as well as carafes, to your table settings this holiday season. Explore Chez Pluie's glassware collection here.

Introducing seasonal evergreens, pine cones, and other organic material to a table setting can infuse the air with the familiar scents of the holidays. While the low-key presence of wooden place settings pictured above helps to promote a mood of comfort and ease.

Shop this glorious look! Chez Pluie stocks beautiful antique and vintage candlesticks that can make fabulous traditional centerpieces for tablescapes. Available now is an antique mercury glass candlestick that could help recreate the table setting photographed above.

Enchanting tea and coffee sets, plates, incredible glassware, and special serving utensils and vessels can all be found online at Chez Pluie.

Bright and patterned objects and fabrics can make a tablescape fun and festive and shift the formal tone of the gros super into a more light-hearted affair. Consider introducing highly decorative pieces, such as colored glass drinking vessels, vases, and busy tablecloths, to craft this sensibility.

Vases to treasure and that will offer daily pleasure are always available online at Chez Pluie. Explore the current collection of vases.

Green, red, blue, or plain white plates can help set the tone of different meal times over the holidays. Currently in stock is a fabulous set of fish-shaped plates, platter, and ramekin service that would enliven a holiday tablescape!

Among the other dinner sets available now is a rare antique French porcelain dinner service collection and German Meissen-Oignon blue dinner service, as well as a fabulous asparagus service from Vallauris that would bring some color and interest to a festive dining table.

Discover Chez Pluie's vintage and antique stemware. New sets are always being added. There are two sets of wine glasses (a set of six and a set of eleven) from Alsace with brilliant emerald green stems that would look so great on a French-style tablescape this holiday season and are currently available!

5. Decorating idea: A Christmas bedroom

During the holiday season, feature objects you love that have some festive hues. Their coloring can allude to the special times of the year through careful arrangement. The beautiful interior above is one of the stylish bedrooms in which guests of the Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé can luxuriate. The chateau is located in the famous Loire Valley, a happy jaunt from Paris.

A classic vintage giltwood table lamp from the 1940s, such as the one currently in stock at Chez Pluie, placed near an object or material colored green, red, or white, can help bring a touch of Christmas to the bedrooms and guestrooms.

Chez Pluie has an assortment of stools of varying heights that are convenient for use as a catchall in a bedroom or guestroom for newspapers, breakfast trays, clothes, or feet. The above stool is 27¼" high and is freshly reupholstered with beige linen from the nineteenth century.

Lovingly and beautifully worn, this wooden ornament would look fantastic displayed year-round, but over festive periods could be used to set the tone for holiday-themed displays. It could look great in a bookcase or on a mantelpiece.

Add Christmas touches to bedrooms with decorations and lighting around mirrors, headboards, fireplaces, and windows.

While on the theme of multipurpose, crockery such as side plates or platters is a practical and economical way to fill a wall, as well as fulfill their traditional use on the kitchen or dining table.

6. Creative decorating: Everyday objects and sculpture made festive

Jazz up or rearrange existing domestic décor with some Christmas colors and decorations, et voilà! Scroll for some visual cues!

Encountering a pair of breathtaking wall sconces in a hallway, such as the 18th-century wall applique display brackets pictured above, can lift the beholder's spirits. Set up, so they form a focal point, celestial sculptures such as these naturally come into their own around the holidays.

Soft, warm, and reassuring textures such as velvet are most appreciated cooler weather. Gather comfy furniture around the fireplace and give Santa somewhere to rest his cold, weary feet by placing thoughtfully a red velvet stool near the fire.

Introduce patterns of interest in your décor design - perhaps it's a color theme, star shape, inspiration from upholstery fabric, or wallpaper that weaves throughout the interior. Experiment with unique and unusual objects juxtaposed with elements of a different quality -- unite wood with glass, for example. As demonstrated in the inspirational photos throughout the blog, vases, such as this slender dark red tall vase, or any treasured vessel, can make a marvelous impact.

 A large 1940s French chandelier, need I say more?

Make a statement with this rare, large, olive green glass vase from the nineteenth century decorated with foliage and berries. Its festivity can be emphasized, especially around the holidays.

Quintessential French décor, such classic olive pots, lend themselves gracefully to the esprit de noël.

7. Creative decorating: Festive fun with preserving jars

Demijohns resemble Christmas baubles in shape and are really easy to work with to transform into Christmas décor.
Secure the base of a candle to the top of a demijohn bottle to make an unusual candleholder.

Demijohns can be a creative alternative to a Christmas tree in an apartment or modestly-sized home, and fun decorated with a strand of fairy lights.

Level the inside base of a preserving jar with pebbles and securely position a candle, et voilà, a hurricane lamp! These look fabulous lined up on steps. 

8. Creative decorating: Make a crèche de Noël

Enlist the help of young family members to set up a French-style nativity scene, or crèche de Noël. Magical pieces can be selected at French Christmas markets.

Sometimes Chez Pluie unearths very old and precious religious items, occasionally from churches. At the moment, there is a set of three antique French mercury glass religious sculptures available. They would bring a tender or spiritual element to a home year-round, but naturally feature in a crèche de Noël also.

Nativity scenes can be formed over a lifetime. It's OK to start small! And even to stay small – a simple arrangement will ring true. The younger generation might search their toy box for a baby, animals, or something to use as a little bed that they might be willing to include. Model trees and shrubs can be found in the architectural sections of craft shops and can help set the rural scene, while hay can evoke a lowly cattle shed.

If you are able to visit France for Christmas at some point, be sure to visit the amazing nativity scenes at the various churches around the country, and for some breathtaking artistic displays, don't miss the famous crèche de Noël at Église de la Madeleine in Paris. While you are on holidays in France, select a special crèche ornament to include in the following year's nativity scene. Over time, you will not only build up a beautiful display but a group of memories as well – much like collecting treasured ornaments for the Christmas tree.

Shop French decorative objects for more ideas on how to recreate a nativity scene. If you are craving something in particular, engage the fabulous Finders Service at Chez Pluie. Susannah and Hugh Cameron will be only too happy to help.

Dreaming of a French Christmas? Read our blog "Christmas in France" to transport you there.

Thank you for reading. Salutations des saisons from Chez Pluie.

Image sources: Vibeke Design, Elle Decor, Veranda Magazine, Pinterest, Reddit, European Best Destinations, La Valise a Fleur, Whisper of Vintage, Better Homes & Gardens, One Kind Design, Look Me Luck Photos, Bless'er House, Follow the Yellow Brick Home, Clem Around the Corner, Amy Chalmers Maison Decor, Dreamy Whites, Cote Maison, Hello-Hello, Tudoorna, Southern Living, Everyday Living, On Sutton Place, Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé, Elle Decor, www.francetvinfo.fr, Quintessence, and Chez Pluie.

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Frequently asked questions

1) What is the traditional French way of decorating the house for Christmas?

Decorating the mantelpiece with forest greens and placing golden baubles and interspersing with pine cones; dressing a Christmas tree with tinsel, ornaments, and lights; creating a beautiful crèche; displaying reliquaries or other Christmas-themed sculptures in the house or on the window ledges, are ways the traditional French home is decorated for Noël. Fill lovely rustic vases and antique ceramic urns with fresh evergreen sprigs and position on tables and benches throughout the residence to evoke a French festive sensibility. For outside, traditional French homes often will have a Christmas wreath mounted on the front door. Courtyards and gardens will be illuminated with candles and lanterns and lovely evergreens or festively-colored elements will adorn chic garden sculptures. 

2) My yuletide tablescape needs some updating. What are some ideas I can incorporate for Christmas 2021?

This year, take some inspiration from traditional French tablescapes. Either commit to a neutral color palette with pops of one or two colors - this is very French. Choose for example a natural fibre for the placemats, an evergreen runner, and candlesticks. Consider using a variety of colored and clear glassware on the tabletop. Or if you are feeling like a more busy and lively aesthetic, try a patterned tablecloth, mix and match crockery, and cloth napkins – perhaps with a touch of embroidery. Place Christmas bonbonniere at each table-setting. Fill transparent glass jars with candy canes and other holiday treats.

3) What are some traditional French desserts at Christmas?

Bûche de Noël or Yule log, is ubiquitious with Noël and importantly it most likely originated in France before spreading to many European countries and the rest of the world. Shaped and decorated with chocolate icing and icing sugar to resemble a log of wood dusted in snow, the Yule log is a sponge cake layered with chocolate butter cream. You can go wild decorating it: think red berries, real holly, or use marzipan to mimic forest growth!

The Les Treize Desserts de Noël also is a very traditional French dessert, associated with Provence. Although the items vary village to village and family to family, below is an example of the 13 desserts of Christmas (the first four are a mix of dried fruit and nuts and linked to the monastic orders):

1. Raisins (Dominicans)

2. Walnuts or hazelnuts (Augustinians)

3. Dried figs (Franciscans)

4. Almonds (Carmelites)

5. Tangerines (yes, fresh fruit! If you don't have Tangerines, apples or another fresh fruit will do)

6. Biscotins (biscuits) from Aix

7. Two kinds of nougat (often from Montelimar, a town famous for its nougat)

  • Nougat noir au miel (black nougat with honey, a hard candy made with honey and almonds)
  • Nougat blanc (white nougat, a soft candy made with sugar, eggs, pistachios, honey, and almonds)

8. Pain d'epices (or spiced bread)

9. Fried bugnes (or angel wings)

10. Oreillettes(light thin waffles)

11. Calissons d'Aix (a marzipan-like candy made from almond paste and candied melon)

12. Casse-dents of Allauch (biscuit)

13. Cumin and fennel seed biscuits

4) For the friend who has everything, how can I find a present they will love?!

- For your green-thumbed friends consider a weathered planter or cachepot

- Candlesticks could make a special present for someone who loves meditative spaces and they can be used year-round

- Cheer wine appreciators with a champagne bucket, stemware, or bar accessory

- A classic set of linen tea towels or an old pot for displaying utensils on the counter will enrapture the home chef and help achieve mise en place in the kitchen

- For a colleague or loved one, a decorative piece such as a world globe, map, or small bronze sculpture could update the home or work office for the New Year


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