In France New Year’s Eve is called la Saint-Sylvestre or la fête de la Saint- Sylvestre, named after the saint of the day – a pope from 314 to 335 AD. It is traditionally celebrated with a special meal, Le Réveillon de Saint-Sylvestre which is usually served to last the entire evening until well past midnight.
New Year’s Eve creeps up on us very quickly once the excitement of Christmas so planning ahead at this very hectic time of year can make all the difference to keep the stress levels down. Are you planning a French style dinner? If so it might help to have a little understanding as to how the French celebrate this very special occasion.
According to French tradition, a proper meal on New Year’s Eve will bring prosperity to the house–in which case all the effort that you put in to making it a success will definitely be worth it. Dinner can range from a small affair with just a couple of friends and family to something on a much larger scale, although tradition dictates that the best of the best should be offered at the table to start the year as you mean to continue. Either way it can be followed by music and dancing. The meal itself can last for several hours with plenty of courses–well worth extra cushions on the chairs.
It’s time to think about how to decorate the table. I prefer to keep to a simple style allowing the food to be the star of the show. I do like white or shades of white for the china and I keep to muted shades for the tablecloth, napkins and placemats. I set three plates of different sizes for each person with the smallest on the top and largest on the bottom with carefully placed cutlery either side, knives to the right, forks to the left with the tines of the forks placed facing downwards à la française. Several different glasses are required for the various wines – red, white and dessert, not forgetting the water glasses. It is then really a case of dressing it up with lots of small candles or, if you are lucky to have them, two or three large French candles or candelabras, gold or silver baubles or green foliage.
When the guests arrive it is the custom to welcome them with appetizers and perhaps a glass of champagne or kir royale (pour a drop of Créme de Cassis in the bottom of a flute and fill with Champagne). A sample menu for the dinner on this special occasion might start with seafood – oysters are very popular, as is smoked salmon, followed by foie gras or pate en croute. The main course of beef, venison, veal or perhaps duck and at least two side dishes of vegetables would usually be followed by a salad, the obligatory cheese course and finally a dessert, traditionally a Bûche de Noël. Of course all of this food would be washed down with plenty of good quality French wine and a glass of champagne to usher in the New Year.
For more ideas or inspiration for your French Home visit our Interior Decoration Pages.
•WIth thanks to Ann Horne – French Chic and Shabby
Photos courtesy of Provence Decoration and Summerill & Bishop