December sees France going festive in a big way. In major towns and cities, Christmas markets spring up in the streets and squares. And many places light up their buildings in glorious technicolor. Then it’s time for a short Christmas holiday (only Dec 25th is a public holiday), before gearing up for New Year’s Eve. Events in December in France are certainly exciting.

Train at Calais Christmas market with dressed up actors at night
Calais Christmas Market Great Parade C Fred Collier/Calais

NB. You will have to have the pass sanitaire, or confirmation of your vaccinations against covid-19 for ticketed events or those indoors.

If you are travelling to France, please check the rules under the covid regulations here.

More on How the French Celebrate Christmas

And most importantly, what they eat. French Christmas food is a serious matter!

Events in France in December 2021

Cannes Dance Festival with two figures - lady with back gowards us in full skirt and bikini style top with strange figures looking like a Martian opposite
Cannes Dance Festival with Castafiore group © castafiore-systems

To Dec 12, 2021: Cannes Dance Festival. You might think Cannes is just about film, but Cannes is also known for dance, cemented by the opening of the Rosella Hightower International Dance Centre in 1961 which trains young talent. The annual dance festival is quite superb with an exciting line up of contemporary dancers and spectacle.

Paris Festival Wichaya Artamat with stuffed penguin in front or man in yellow robes and surreal strange background
Paris Festival: Wichaya Artamat

To Feb 18, 2022:  The Paris Autumn Arts Festival covers everything, pitching Paris as a cultural capital. From dance to films, theatre to music; it’s all here for the tasting at locations from the Pompidou Centre to the Ménagerie de Verre.

Colmar christmas Market with lit stalls and snowy rooves
Colmar Christmas Market. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

All month: Christmas markets spring up in towns and cities. Some are rightly world famous, such as the one in Strasbourg; others are smaller but just as much fun. In north France make for Arras which fills its glorious main square with stalls, a restaurant and a big wheel that takes you up into the sky. Events in December in France must include a visit to a festive market.

Le Puy en Velay mairie lit up with red white and blue
Le Puy-en-Velay illuminations Luc Olivier

All month: Many towns and cities light up their buildings. Chartres is well known, but don’t miss Le Puy-en-Velay, in the middle of the remote southern Auvergne where the buildings half way up its extraordinary volcanic outcrops look as if they are suspended in the sky. Magical.

Place Stanislas in Nancy at night showing view through elaborate black and gold cast iron grill and long classical building bathed in spotlights
Place Stanislas in Nancy © Nicolas Cornet/CC-BY-SA 3.0

Dec 3-5, 2021: Nancy holds its famous St Nicholas’ Festival alongside its Christmas market on Place Charles III. It celebrates St Nicholas, patron saint of children. Big parade, big projection on the town hall and lots of fun.

Paris horse show with showjumper in full stretch over jump facing camera
Paris horse show © Eponimm/CC-BY-SA 4.0

Dec 4-8, 2021: The Paris Horse Show (Salon du Cheval de Paris) sees around 450 exhibitors and 2,000 horses competing at Paris Nord Villepinte, Paris. Everything the horse enthusiast could want with great competitions including the Paris Longines Masters, the European part of the Masters Grand Slam Indoor, the Night of the Horse (Nuit du Cheval)and the Arabian Horse World Championship, an international competition featuring over 140 Arabian horses where prizes are given for the world’s finest specimens. It becomes more lighthearted with great children’s events.    

Fete des lumieres in lyon with fountain brilliantly lit up
Fête des lumières at Lyon. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

December 8-11, 2021:  Fête des Lumières takes over Lyon, capital of Rhône-Alpes with a light show on buildings that has become world famous. It’s a spectacular show.

Mid-December, 2021: (Dates to be confirmed) Chestnut Fair (Fiera di a Castagna) in Bocognano in Celavo, Corsica dates back around 37 years. It’s called the chestnut festival but it includes cheeses, olive oil, honey, wine and more. In fact all the goodies grown and produced in Corsica. And of course, there’s music, crafts and more.
More about food festivals in France throughout the year

epernay Festivities in December with lit up figures in white in the streets
Epernay Festivities. Michel Jolyot

Dec 10-12, 2021: Les Habits de Lumière at Épernay in Champagne takes centre stage just in time for Christmas. The city lights up, there’s a big parade, fireworks, exhibitions, music, cellar tours, cookery demonstrations and bubbly tastings, plus a vintage car parade on Sunday. Try some of the smaller houses and make your own discoveries.
If you’re in Reims, consider a visit to one of the great Champagne Houses.

Tables laid for christmas with decorated tree in background, and table with green cloth, red baubles and ribbon and glasses of champagne
Christmas © Wikimedia Commons/Jill Wellington

Dec 24-26, 2021: Christmas Eve is the time when French families and friends get together for an almighty feast with oysters, salmon, beef and more. On Christmas Day some families go to church; other people gather in bars in the morning. Many shops are open, but only to noon or 1pm. It’s a quiet day!

New Year’s Eve or Réveillon in Strasbourg. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Dec 31, 2021: Le Reveillon, or New Year’s Eve, is very much a public holiday. So book a restaurant and get merry with the French who certainly know how to enjoy themselves. And stay in a city which celebrates it very publicly.

Events in France in December 2021 end the year in style.

More Events in France in 2021

Events in France in January 2021
Events in France in February 2021
Events in France in March 2021
Events in France in April 2021
Events in France in May 2021
Events in France in June 2021
Events in France in July 2021
Events in France in August 2021
Events in France in September 2021
Events in France in October 2021
Events in France in November 2021

Major Events and New Openings in France in 2021

More about great Food Festivals in France

French Public Holidays