French traditions are numerous and diverse. The French have a taste for custom and tradition, yet also pride themselves as forward thinkers, in the avant garde.
French Culinary Traditions
The French are known for taking their food very seriously.
Professional Food Traditions
Auguste L'Escoffier, restauranteur and food critic, unified the best French cooking techniques in a standard recognizable form.
L'Escoffier also created a traditionally French organizational system for professional kitchens based on a division of labor, brigade system. This system has been widely adopted everywhere. For more information on formal french cooking techniques consult:
- Mastering the Art of French Cooking is the masterpiece by Julia Child that ushered the gourmet revolution in America.
- Le Guide Culinaire L'Escoffier's reference book still used by master chefs worldwide.
There is almost nothing more traditional in France than the sight of people lining up outside of the local boulangerie (bread store) waiting for their fresh baguette which they will eat with breakfast, lunch and dinner. There are even regulations on ingredients and method of production of the baguette traditionelle.
French Holiday Traditions
There are many french traditions that are associated with holidays and celebrations.
The dominant religion in France is Catholicism, so many people attend the traditional late evening Christmas Mass. Le Réveillon (referring to the birth of Christ) is the dinner that follows and will usually include turkey, capon, goose, chicken, and boudin blanc (white pudding).
Père Noël (Santa Clause) fills shoes left in front of the fireplace instead of stockings. Père Fouettard might also appear if children have been naughty and will give out spankings instead of presents.
This is the name for Easter in France, and there are several traditions associated with it. For example, no church bells are rung from the Thursday before Good Friday until Easter Sunday. When the bells resume, people hug and kiss each other.Instead of the Easter Bunny, French children believe that the silent church bells become Flying Bells that depart before Good Friday, taking with them all the grief and misery of mourners of Christ's crucifixion. After they visit the Pope in Rome, they return on Easter Sunday, having hidden chocolate Easter eggs for children to find.
Translated as the Easter Fish this French tradition is much like April Fools Day, taking place on April first. Children make fish out of paper and pin them to the backs of as many adults as possible, running away while saying Poisson D'Avril. You can purchase a fish made of chocolate which you would certainly not pin on anyone, but makes a delicious way to celebrate this day!
La Fête Nationale, celebrated on July 14 is much like the Fourth of July in the United States. The celebration commemorates the day in 1789 when the prison at the Bastille was stormed and pillaged by angry French citizens, the beginning of the French Revolution. Like July 4, the day is marked with fireworks, parades and similar celebrations. The French national anthem is often heard on this memorable holiday.
At French weddings it is traditional for someone to behead bottles of champagne using a specially-made saber. According to legend, the tradition originated with Napolean's skilled Hussard horse soliders. They would ride up at a full gallop and cleanly chop the top of champagne bottles held in the air by ladies.
French Traditions and The Arts
France has long distinguished itself in the areas such as painting, music, dance and cinema by being avant garde, exploring new themes and techniques.
The Fine Arts Tradition in France
Some of the most beloved French paintings are by French Impressionist painters like Monet and Renoir. They, however, were rebelling against the formality of the classical tradition represented by great masters like Jacques Louis David, whose massive battle and coronation scenes hang in the Louvre.
Pablo Picasso was not French, however, he spent all of his extraordinary painting career in France where he and other native French painters like Henri Matisse broke even further away from representative painting, ushering in twentieth modernism.
French Film Traditions
The French Lumiere brothers are generally credited with being among the first to create moving images. Their early experiments recorded everyday events, such as trains arriving at stations. Thus began a long tradition of film production in France.After World War II, the Nouvelle Vague or New Wave launched a French cinematic tradition when a group of young critics including François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard, who were intrigued American auteur directors, started making their own films. Here are examples of that French film tradition:
|Film Title||In English||Director||Year|
|Les Quatre-Cent Coups||The 400 Blows||Truffaut||1959|
|À Bout de Souffle||Breathless||Godard||1959|
|Les Biches||The Bad Girls||Chabrol||1968|
|Cleo de 5 à 7||Cleo from 5 to 7||Varda||1962|
These are only a brief sampling of the many French traditions that make the culture endlessly fascinating. Visit France and experience them first hand.