Parisian Living

How to Celebrate New Year’s Eve Like the French

by Ali Postma
Left: a view of Paris. There are several buildings and the Eiffel Tower can be seen in the distance. The sun is setting and the sky is pink and orange. There are Christmas decorations visible on a café on a street below. Right: an aerial view of a cheese platter. There are several pieces of cheese as well as grapes, figs, and olives. There is also bread. To the left is a smaller cheese platter and a plate, both filled with cheese and fruit.
Top: Mat Reding / Above: Paris je t’aime / moriah.brooke

What a year 2020 has been—I think we’re all a bit relieved to be leaving this year behind us. In France, we have only been out of lockdown for two weeks, and restaurants and bars don’t open until January 20.

Left: an image of Billecart Salmon champagne. It is on a green velvet chair and it is propped up on it's box, which is salmon colored. Right: Two glasses of champagne. There are sprigs of lavender in the glasses and on the table. There are also gold ornaments and gold confetti.
cormaci_wineandspirits / Nora Schlesinger

This doesn’t leave much room for celebrating New Year’s Eve out this year, so at home it is. Luckily, there are plenty of ways you can celebrate New Year’s Eve like the French, even if at home. Here are some tips to help make it a special night: 

Left: an aerial view of a plate of smoked salmon. There is a half of a lemon on the plate as well. There are other food items slightly visible including blinis, avocado, caviar, and a small jar of sauce. Right: A bottle of billecart Salmon champagne laying on a bed of dark blue grapes. The label is salmon colored and there is silver aluminum at the top of the bottle.
lamaisonducaviar / champagne_billecart_salmon

Champagne 

You can’t celebrate New Year’s Eve without popping a bottle of Champagne. The number one top-selling Champagne in France—and number three worldwide—is Nicolas Feuillatte. And it’s easy to see why. They have great special edition bottles and are also on the more affordable end of the spectrum.

Left: Someone cutting into fois gras that is in a white container. Right: a bottle of Piper Heidsieck champagne. It is in front of a dark green wall and is on top of a gold platter. The bottle is next to its box, which is red.
maisonlafitte / piper_heidsieck

Then there’s the Champagne of choice of Marie Antoinette and Marilyn Monroe: Piper-Heidsieck. Marie Antoinette was their first brand ambassador and Marilyn Monroe once said: “I go to bed with a few drops of a very famous perfume and I wake up with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck.”

Left: an aerial view of a platter of oysters in ice. There is a sauce in the center of the platter and a glass filled with white wine is visible at the top of the frame. Right: a white plate with food with two wine glasses filled with rosé champagne next to a bottle of Billecart Simon champagne on a wooden table. The glasses and the bottle are in focus and the plate is not.
caviar_prunier / champagne_billecart_salmon

If you like your Champagne pink, you can’t go wrong with my personal favorite: Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé. And last but certainly not least, Perrier-Jouët Belle Époque is a bottle of Champagne that looks as good as it tastes. 

Left: a woman with long blonde hair wearing a black shirt and a red and black skit with black tights standing on a balcony in Paris overlooking the city. Only her side is visible. She is looking at several Parisian buildings and the Eiffel Tower is visible. Right: a table with several food items, a bouquet of flowers in a glass vase and two glasses of champagne and a bottle of champagne. Someone holding a glass of champagne is visible on a couch in the background.
brightlights_blonde / envie.apero.leblog

Food

Like Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve is a night for indulging in the best gourmet delicacies that France has to offer. For apéro, think oysters, smoked salmon, caviar (budget allowing), and foie gras. For main, duck or turkey. Follow it up with a cheese platter, bien sûr. 

Left: a table set for a winter holiday meal. There is a wreath made of pine branches with four pink candles in it. There are more candles on the table and there is a place setting with two glasses, a plate with a dessert on it, and a pink napkin. Right: Parisian rooftops. There are several buildings with gray slate roofs and small chimneys visible.
atelier_jarabina / ainsley.stephens

French Music

Set the mood with some French music. If you want to dance and like electronic music, there’s Daft Punk, Justice, M83, and Yelle. On the more indie/pop side of things, you have Christine and the Queens, Julien Doré, The Pirouettes, and Frànçois & The Atlas Mountains. If you’re into rock, Phoenix, or genre-defying La Femme. Zaz and Brigitte are great for indie/folk lovers, and for some Latin reggae check out Manu Chao. 

TV

On New Year’s Eve, French people often watch the presidential address, or les vœux présidentiels. Unfortunately, this year’s fireworks display at the Arc de Triomphe has been cancelled. Instead, the City of Paris has organized a virtual concert hosted by Jean-Michel Jarre at Notre-Dame! You can watch “Welcome to the other side” online.

Left: the window of a bookstore in Paris with Christmas lights. The storefront is black and the word "Librarie" is written in gold on it. The shop is lit up with lights. Right: Someone holding a heart-shaped sparkler in front of a Christmas tree in Paris. The hand with the sparkler is in focus and the tree and some Parisian buildings are blurry in the background.
erika.kostialova / caroowild

Mistletoe

Unlike us Anglophones who associate mistletoe (gui in French) with Christmas, the French actually kiss under the mistletoe on New Year’s Eve. So make sure you string up a bunch somewhere strategic for your midnight kiss… 

Left: a wreath made from branches, greenery, twine, and a small ribbon at the top of the wreath. It is against a white background. Right: Sprigs of winter greenery. Christmas lights are visible in the background but are not in focus.
aurelie3foismamankoala / Matt Seymour

Cards and Gifts

French people don’t send Christmas cards, they send New Year’s cards instead to wish their family and friends a bonne année. The French also often give monetary gifts called étrennes to thank those who work for them, such as their guardian/guardienne, cleaner, postal worker, garbage collectors, the police, and pompiers (firefighters). In fact, New Year’s Day is popularly called Jour des Étrennes.

The Sacre Coeur Basilica in Paris at night. The photo is taken from the base of the church, and a museum with large windows can be seen in the bottom left corner of the image. In the bottom right corner another store is visible with Christmas decorations on it.
Paris je t’aime

Related Links

Left: a jar of Masion Lafitte fois gras with a round black box to hold it. It is on a black and white surface. Right: an aerial view of Maison Lafitte fois gras. There is a cutting board with fois gras, a slice of bread, a loaf of bread, and several lemons visible.
maisonlafitte

Written by Ali Postma for HiP Paris. Looking to travel? Check out Haven In for a fabulous vacation rental in Paris, France or Italy. Looking to rent long-term or buy in France or Italy? Ask us! We can connect you to our trusted providers for amazing service and rates. 

Written By

Ali Postma

Ali is from Melbourne, Australia, where she studied Art History and Art Curatorship at university and worked in various art galleries. Passionate about all things arts and culture, she loves French film, Nordic noir, photography, street art and architecture. Addicted to pain au chocolat, Ali is fulfilling her dream of living in Paris. View Ali Postma's Website

One comment on “How to Celebrate New Year’s Eve Like the French

You can’t celebrate NYE without champagne? Pity the poor alcoholics who must apparently be doomed to a melancholy night.

The “French Connection” show on France24 did an informative piece on the same subject – readers looking for a bit of actual substance might check that out.

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