December events in France this year are spectacular. 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 many, varied and exciting.

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

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 2022

To Dec 31, 2022: Contemporary Art Biennale, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. This is amajor event covering painting, sculpture, photo and video. It’s held in venues from the Contemporary Art Museum and La Sucrière to La Veduta, a cultural laboratory with exhibitions and artists’ residences. Fringe events are at Résonance. This year’s theme of Fragility gives plenty of scope for those impressive, if rather convoluted explanations about life and art which the French excel at.

Poster for the 2022 Biennale de Lyon. title in lower case manifesto of fragility with swirling red shapes on background
Biennale de Lyon 2022

To Jan 14, 2023: Chartres en lumières sees this wonderful city illuminated for its annual festival of light. It’s nightly so there’s no excuse to miss it.  

Chartres lit up with multi coloured lights on the cathedral
Chartres lit up © Chartres Tourist Office

To Feb 18, 2023:  The Paris Autumn Festival is a huge arts events, taking in every discipline and taking place in many different venues throughout Paris. It was created in 1972 by Michel Guy under the impetus of Georges Pompidou whose ambition was for Paris to become a cultural capital. He succeeded; today around 150,000 people attend one of the events.

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

Events in France starting in December 2022

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 old and impressive market 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.

Your 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 one of the best known (and one of the first), but you’ll find others throughout the country. I thoroughly recommend Le Puy-en-Velay, in the middle of the remote southern Auvergne. The buildings half way up its extraordinary volcanic outcrops look as if they are suspended in the sky. Magical.

Dec 2-4, 2022: The Festival of Sainte Barbe, Lens-Lievin, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France. Fires and illumination are lit and the bands are playing to commemorate and celebrate la Sainte Barbe in Lens-Lievin. She is the martyred patron saint of miners, skilled mechanics and firemen and it’s quite a show in this surprisingly exciting former mining area that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nightime with man breathing fire on procession in streets for La Sainte Barbe
La Sainte Barbe Fire Festival Photo: La Sainte Barbe Festival

Dec 3-4, 2022: Salon du Cheval de Paris. The Paris Horse Show is important, with over 2,500 horses taking part in the diverse events from show jumping to dressage, eventing to the Arabian horse championship.

Villepinte Exhibition Centre Paris behind the scenes at horse show withhugeposter hanging showing white horse and lady stroking his neck and below horse and people around stands
Paris Villepinte Exhibition Centre @Eponimm/CC-BY-SA 4.0

The highlight is undoubtedly the Longines Masters de Paris, the European leg of the Longines world wide series with prestigious equestrian competitions like the Grand Slam Master and the Prestige Trophy.

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

Around 50,000 visitors come to the Paris-Nord Villepinte exhibition centre with its Olympic-standard course. You can shop (if youcan afford it) at the ‘Prestige Village’ where small boutiques offer fashion, luxury goods, horse-riding items, and of course excellent food and wine.

Dec 3-4, 2022: Braderie de l’Art, Roubaix, Hauts-de-France. This artists’ 24-hour non-stop festival is right at the centre of the recycling movement. It’s a glorious event showing just what can be done by 150 international artists, designers, stylist, painters, sculptors and graphic artists. They take recovered articles gathered under the RE-COLLECT label and them into objects prices between 1 and 300 euros. It’s ‘Art that Everyone Can Afford’ as the slogan says.

Roubaiz Braderie de l'Art with stand showing odd animal sculptures made from recycled materials, with people looking on
Roubaix Braderie de l’Art © Jacob Khryst

Dec 3-5, 2022: Nancy holds its famous St Nicholas’ Festival alongside its Christmas market on Place Charles III. It celebrates St Nicholas, patron saint of children with a big parade, big projections of lights on the town hall and lots of fun.

Two huge giraffe (models) in square at Nancy St Nicolas Festival withpeople photographing and christmas tree to right
St Nicolas Festival in Nancy © Nancy Tourist Office

Dec 7-11, 2022: Les Trans Musicales Festival in Rennes, Brittany. Seeking out new musical trends, and new musicians since 1979, Les Trans has become synonymous with innovative, international music.

Jawjar at Les Trans Music Festival in Rennes with blue background and tint and one man playing his guitar on stage
Jawhar at Les Trans © Pymousse/CC-BY-SA 4.0

December 8-11, 2021:  Fête des Lumières, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes. This wonderful Festival started on Dec 8, 1852 when people in Lyon lit candles in their windows to celebrate the statue of the Virgin Mary being erected on Fourvière hill. It’s lost the religious meaning today but remains a fabulous city with over 30 new creations of light each year.

Lyon cathedral facade litup for festival with lights mainly shandes ofblue and red radiating from central rose window at night with crowds in front
Lyon Cathedral © Muriel Chalet

Dec 9-11, 2022: Chestnut Fair (Fiera di a Castagna) in Bocognano in Celavo, Corsica, dates back around 37 years. Despite its name the festival 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

Close-up of sweet chesnut in broken open casing with two sweet chestnuts inside
Chestnuts Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Dec 9-11, 2022: Les Habits de Lumière at Épernay in Champagne is a great public celebration before Christmas. The city lit up city puts on a big parade, fireworks, exhibitions, music, cellar tours, cookery demonstrations and bubbly tastings. And on Sunday there’s 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.

Les Habits de Lumières at Epernay showing main town hall lit up in red and orange
Les Habits de Lumières Photo: Epernay

Dec 10-11, 2022: Licques Turkey Festival, Licques, Pas-de-Calais, Hauts-de-France. Follow the turkeys as they parade through the streets on the Sunday morning with members of the town dressed up in traditional costume. The Licques Turkey Festival has two days of celebration, but this is the high spot.

Licques Turkey festival showing two ladies in costume in blue and white with curious headdresses
Licques Turkey Festival © Pays d’OpaleTourisme

N.B. Dates are not yet confirmed for this event, but as it takes place every year, there’s a good chance it will go ahead in 2022. Check the website.

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, 2022: 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, 2022: 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.

If you’re in the Loire Valley or Paris, visit one of the châteaux that dress themselves up so beautifully over the Christmas holidays. A Christmas Châteaux.

Events in France in 2022

Events in France in January 2022
Events in France in February 2022
Events in France in March 2022
Events in France in April 2022
Events in France in May 2022
Events in France in June 2022
Events in France in July 2022
Events in France in August 2022
Events in France in September 2022
Events in France in October 2022
Events in France in November 2022

Geography of France

To help you find those events, here are a couple of articles on the geography of France

Regions of France
Departments of France

AND…

French Public Holidays

More about great Food Festivals in France

Happy Holidays!

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