Le réveillon is the Christmas meal traditionally eaten on the 24th December in the evening. More recently families have started enjoying two celebration meals particularly if they spend time with both families. In this case there’s one meal on the 24th and another on the 25th. Christmas in Normandy is generally the same as throughout France but will include local specialities.
French celebration meals often start with an apéro. This is usually an alcoholic drink served with savoury nibbles. It’s designed to stimulate the appetite and is an opportunity to socialise.
The starter is very often oysters or foie gras. Foie gras is usually served with a special spicy loaf called pain d’épices. Other starters include smoked salmon or scallops. The scallops are cooked in a butter-based sauce and served in a scallop shell. Goose, duck, chicken and turkey are popular for the main meal served with chestnuts and dates. The centrepiece of the meal is the bûche de noël – a French version of a chocolate log. To prolong the meal a cheese course can be added but this is eaten before the dessert. In Normandy a green salad accompanies the cheese. Champagne or fine wine is served and perhaps calvados at the end of the meal.
The emphasis is very much on the quality, rather than the quantity of the food and drink. It’s also a time to enjoy the company of family and friends. At Christmas there are also plenty of chocolates in the shops. However, there isn’t much snacking and nibbling between meals so they’re probably eaten at the end of the meal with a coffee.
There are some French recipes here https://www.frenchentree.com/living-in-france/food-recipes/main-dishes/recipes-for-a-traditional-french-christmas/?utm_content=bufferb9eb0&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
What You Won’t Find
Don’t expect prawn cocktail with your smoked salmon. You may get a shellfish platter but the prawns won’t be covered in marie rose sauce. You do, however, find tail-on prawns served with a cocktail sauce. The cocktail sauce is mayonnaise coloured with ketchup. Equally, the main course won’t be served with a meat gravy. To add moisture to the meal, meat will be accompanied by a sauce perhaps made of red wine or foie gras. The shops don’t sell pigs in blankets which are small sausages wrapped in bacon. You can make your own although it would need to be regular sized sausages. Brussel sprouts aren’t too difficult to find although that’s only changed in the last few years. Mince pies, Christmas cake, Christmas pudding, brandy butter and liqueur dessert creams aren’t available in the shops either. There are British entrepreneurs living in France who cook and bake British food.
Christmas in Normandy is perhaps different to what you’re used to. It’s certainly delicious though.