What does one eat in France for the Réveillon?

Firstly, what is the réveillon? It is a loooooong dinner held on the evenings preceding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The word ‘réveil’ means ‘waking’ and refers to the fact that these dinners traditionally involve staying awake (and eating) until midnight…and beyond.

As the Réveillon approaches, the festive menus are being finalized across the nation. As with any country, the dishes served will vary from family to family, region to region and year to year, but there do seem to be some usual suspects:

– Starting with champagne and some finger foods, especially canapes topped with smoked salmon or caviar for example and it might also feature verrines (see my previous post Oct 2016), nuts…., but unlike Australia, dips are not very common and cheese platters are never served before the meal nor with crackers.

– The entree could be some raw oysters, scallops, lobster, the controversial foie gras, or soup, with a suitable wine to accompany.

– The main dish is the one that seems to be the most flexible and can be anything from fish to beef /game meat or capon (but not often turkey). Vegetables can be found in form of potatoes, pureed winter varieties, grilled or in a gratin ….with wine on offer.

– For the purists, this is then followed by a cheese platter served with crusty bread (possibly a little fancier than the bread offered during the main course and might be fig, walnut, or rye for example) perhaps with a green salad during, before or after – with wine.

– And for dessert, a ‘buche’ (a cake resembling a log of wood) is common. The original and most common one is chocolate but it is possible to find all kinds of variations from the local patisserie such as berry, tropical fruit, pear, coffee and there are even ice-cream varieties available. A buche from a patisserie will set you back about 30€ for 8 people.


– Dried fruit, chocolate, ‘Papillotes’ and mandarines might be passed around for those who are still a little peckish. Papillotes are chocolates (of pretty poor quality) that are wrapped in shiny foil paper and sold only at Christmas time (that would be from late October to January!).

– Coffee anyone? (always a short black) Or perhaps a digestive?

In Australia, it is common to eat one predominantly cold family Christmas meal at lunchtime on the 25th in a buffet style. This approach permits guests to select what and how much of each dish they want and the timing allows the whole afternoon to digest (and as the following day is a public holiday, there is also the time to recover…… or eat leftovers).

So ‘Bon Courage!’ (Hang in there!) Not only in order to survive excesses of food and lack of sleep but to be able to try and ‘celebrate’ this time of year for those whose loved ones are no longer around to share it with. I miss my mum – who would have turned 82 this 23rd of December – and I would love to be able to teletransport myself to Australia to spend some time with my dad and my brother and friends and then to the USA to see my big sister and friends.

But the good news is that my dear friend Rachael will be visiting in the first week of 2018!