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Bonne Année – Welcome 2017 In French! Posted by on Jan 4, 2017 in Culture

Le nouvel an est ici (the new year is here) ! The whole world is celebrating as 2017 is welcomed and we say au revoir to 2016. While la Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve) is all about welcoming in le nouvel an, the traditions around it can vary around the world, from la boule horaire (the time ball) in New York to eating des raisins (grapes) in Spain and other Spanish-speaking cultures.

Turning the Corner” by Donald Kautz on Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

En France (in France), le reveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve) consists of du champagne et du fois gras (champagne and foie gras) with kisses exchanged at midnight, traditionally sous une branche de gui (under a mistletoe branch). People take a moment to make their vœux du nouvel An (New Year’s resolutions) during la Saint-Sylvestre and échanger les étrennes (exchange New Year’s gifts).

Les étrennes is a special word for un cadeau, but only un cadeau de Noël or un cadeau pour le nouvel An. The word finds its origins in the Roman goddess of the new year, Strena (Strenua). In ancient Rome she was celebrated on January 1st with various gifts in the hopes of bringing good luck.

There is also a lot of noise made during the celebration with cries of “bonne année” (Happy New Year) and the sound of les klaxons de voitures (car horns) across all of France. If you fall asleep, all the noise may wake you up even if you forgot to set an alarm!

À Paris many people gather along les Champs Élysées and under la tour Eiffel to watch les feux d’artifice.

Fireworks on Eiffel Tower” By Yann Caradec. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

À 20 heures (at 8 o’clock), a few hours before the start of the new year, le président de la république française gives an address to the country stating their vœux présidentiels for the year that is about to begin. This was the last time François Hollande will be giving his vœux présidentiels as he is not running in the 2017 election.

As things wind down and people start waking up with la gueule de bois (a hangover) there is still time to think about les bonnes résolutions. Traditionally les vœux du nouvel An can be made up until le 31 janvier.

In the spirit of la Saint-Sylvestre, write your vœux du nouvel An in the comments below!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. sylvanne:

    Our family celebrates Etrainne. I love that tradition, it helps eliminate present withdrawal. I was brought up Franco-American and live in Maine.