In France, Christmas dinner is often defined by rich, gourmet foods: from caviar to foie gras to a special cake designed just for Christmas, the French know how to do holiday meals up right.
Unlike many American families, who opt for a buffet-style Christmas dinner, the French Christmas meal is usually served in courses.
Appetizers or hors d’oeuvres may either be fish- or meat-based. The former is more popular with religious families, as Christmas dinner is usually served on the 24th (Christmas Eve) rather than the 25th (Christmas Day), and Catholic tradition demands a fish-based Christmas Eve dinner.
That said, religious or not, many French families choose to enjoy oysters, smoked salmon, or even caviar for this first bite of the Christmas meal.
Many other families opt for escargots instead, and nearly every family will serve foie gras: in fact, one poll shows that 76 percent of French people couldn’t imagine a Christmas dinner without it.
For the main dish, turkey is a popular choice, though capon and Guinea hen are also common, served with chestnuts, potato gratin, or mashed potatoes. The main is followed by a cheese course and then dessert: the classic bûche de Noël.
It’s perhaps no surprise that in such a pastry-minded society, there’s a cake designed just for Christmas. The bûche or Yule log is a genoise cake filled with buttercream and often decorated to look like an actual log, complete with marzipan or meringue mushrooms. You’ll find some version of this cake in nearly every pastry shop in Paris, with some of the more elaborate going for upwards of 100 euros a cake.
Of course, some French people opt for something a bit simpler (and easier to digest): a clementine.