Each year brings new pleasures when celebrating the Festive Season. This is a time for planning , preparing and  being creative. The celebrations are always worthwhile. The joy and spirit of goodwill, the closeness of friends and family, more than compensate for all the effort.

Here in Normandy, there are a host of  Festive events to enjoy.  Carol concerts, parades and  Christmas markets abound.  Seasonal local produce such as candied fruits, selections of wines, digestifs and artisan chocolates, all make  delicious and unusual Christmas gifts.

Its lovely to watch the’ living créshes’  perform live Nativity concerts and  skilled performers, using puppet characters, portraying the magic of Christmas. Its as though time has stood still in this beautiful part of the world, where communities remember life’s true values.

Every village and town has its own  illuminations. Some are more elaborate than others but all are created in the spirit of sharing the joys of this special time.

For many French people  the Christmas celebrations begin with ‘Le Reveillon’. This is a special late feast ,where all the family get together on Christmas Eve after midnight mass.

A typical family Christmas menu begins with seafood  or oysters, followed by the main course of duck or  goose with carefully presented vegetables. Here in Normandy, which is apple growing country, various forms of cooked apple accompany the meat dish.

A vast selection of French cheeses are presented prior to a delectable dessert (most often the Bûche de Noël or ‘Christmas Log’)

There is no real final dish, as ‘nibbling’ continues into the early morning light. However delicate pastries, chocolate truffles, fruit tarts, candied fruit and a variety of chocolates, served with coffee and liquors, signify the end of the formal dinner. It is customary to serve appropriate wines and Champagne with each course. The choice of these is important and demonstrates the hosts knowledge of fine French wines.

Expect to be sitting at the dining table for around five hours!  This is not just a meal, it’s a happy social occasion, where conversation, fun and laughter are as important as the delicious and varied meal.

The French do not usually include rich Christmas puddings or mince pies in their Christmas menu.

Above is a typical French Christmas desert. Light and fluffy, this mouse is packed with flavour and is easy to digest after a big meal!

Christmas presents are usually laid beneath a Christmas tree near the dinning table. These are normally exchanged on Christmas Eve, before the Christmas meal.