Having a menu of traditional French Christmas foods for the holidays can turn a table from boring to memorable for friends and family alike. Traditions are found throughout France and variety depends on the region. The main meal is "le reveillon" and is traditionally served after midnight mass on Christmas Eve.
The most common foods served for the aperitif include an assortment of canapes, such as smoked salmon or caviar served on blini. Blini are small buckwheat pancakes. Champagne is traditional, but cocktails are equally enjoyed.
The entree usually consists of cold and hot starters. In Paris and the southwest, it is typically foie gras served on brioche or some other type of bread, accompanied by a sweet wine. Another favorite is raw oysters, particularly in Brittany and Paris. Rye bread with butter is traditional company for oysters, served with lemon juice or wine vinegar mixed with finely chopped shallots. Other cold starters are a terrine or pate. White wine goes well with most seafood choices. A popular hot starter is the traditional coquilles St. Jacques, a savory dish of scallops with a cream sauce.
Choose anything you wish for the main course; there are no hard fast traditions for this part of the French Christmas meal. Some favor stuffed poultry. In Alsace, goose with chestnut stuffing, while in Burgundy they may prefer turkey. Lobster, crab and game meats are also a popular choice, including pheasant, venison and wild boar. Cranberry sauce for most meats is reserved for Christmas meals in France. Serve any of these usually with roast chestnuts or rice and wild mushrooms. Vegetables served are green beans and gratin dauphinois, which is the French Alps version of potatoes au gratin. Choose whatever type of wine preferred, though red is usually prevalent during the main course.
French dinner without cheese is hardly French. Serve a variety on a cheese platter with a selection of crackers and breads. Each guest slices off their own portions from the cheeses.
The traditional Christmas dessert in France is the "buche de Noel," or Christmas log. It is a rich, chocolate cake shaped like a Yule log. Another popular dessert is a delicious warm dish of poached spiced fruit in cider or wine sauce, which is still sweet, but much lighter tasting than the other rich holiday foods.
Gemma Craig began writing in 1993, expanding to various websites in 2007. She writes about interior decorating and design, travel, film, literature, technology and consumer electronics. Craig's work has been published in "Spinner," "USA Today" and numerous regional newspapers.