Looking for ways to keep your French learning jolly?
Want some French Christmas song earworms to keep you learning even as you celebrate?
We’ve got the solution!
This list of French Christmas songs is positively perfect for French learners. Listening to French music can help you improve your French skills, as the catchy rhythms and repetitive refrains are good for memorizing.
Not to mention that many of these tunes have English equivalents, so you’re already off to a good start when it comes to understanding them!
Top 5 French Christmas Songs to Get into the Spirit of Noël
If you’d like to listen to the songs, and perhaps even sing along to them, don’t forget to look them up on FluentU, where you can also see the lyrics to these tunes.
Children’s French Christmas Songs
Some classic French Christmas favorites are undoubtedly children’s songs, and why not? Holiday films and songs are often geared towards children, and these selections are no exception.
1. “Petit Papa Noël”
“Petit Papa Noël” is a French favorite, as popular as classics like “Jingle Bells.” The song tells the story of Père Noël or Father Christmas arriving in the night:
Petit papa Noël (Little Father Christmas)
Quand tu descendras du ciel (When you come down from the sky)
Avec des jouets par milliers (With your toys by the thousands)
N’oublie pas mon petit soulier. (Don’t forget my little slipper)
Mais avant de partir (But before you leave)
Il faudra bien te couvrir (Be sure to wrap up)
Dehors tu vas avoir si froid (You’ll be very cold outside.)
C’est un peu à cause de moi. (That’s kind of my fault.)
It’s a cute, childish Christmas song that nonetheless can help you with your French grammar and culture! You’ll find examples of both kinds of future: simple future (tu descendras) and future proche (tu vas avoir).
This is a great example of how the different future tenses are used in French. “Tu descendras” refers to a distant future. We imagine that the child is singing the song before Santa has actually arrived, so coming down from the sky is in the far-off future.
Tu vas avoir si froid, on the other hand, refers to a suggestion in the close future. The child is telling Santa to dress warmly when he leaves the house, which is a close future relative to leaving, which is the action that becomes before.
You also have a reference to mon petit soulier, or my little slipper. This refers to an old tradition whereby French children would leave their shoes out the night before Christmas, and Père Noël would slip their gift—a coin, an orange or a small toy—into their shoes.
If you’re a Jean Dujardin fan, you might like to see him in his pre-artist days singing the song on “Un gars, une fille.”
2. “Le Bonhomme de Neige”
France’s answer to Frosty the Snowman is “Le bonhomme de neige,” a sweet song that describes a child building a snowman after school.
À la sortie de l’école (At the end of school)
J’ai fait un très beau bonhomme (I made a handsome snowman)
Avec un joli cache-col (With a lovely scarf)
Droit comme un majordome (Standing straight and tall as a butler)
N’avait pas de culotte (He didn’t have any pants)
N’avait aucune allure (Didn’t look all that nice)
N’avait pas de redingote (He didn’t have a coat)
Ni de paire de chaussures (Or a pair of shoes)
Aside from being a fun song to sing, this one brings two interesting grammar points and quite a few vocabulary words. Firstly, we can see the distinction between the passé composé and imparfait that tends to be so difficult to master. In this song, we can see that actions (j’ai fait) are expressed with the passé composé, whereas all of the description that follows uses the imparfait.
We can also see an example of the negative form ne… ni… for expressing either/or.
As for the unfamiliar vocabulary words—cache-col, culotte and redingote—you’re likely to find them in 19th century literature but less so in your modern textbook. The first is an old-fashioned word for a scarf, the second a type of pants, and the third a frenchification of the English “riding coat” that was so popular in the 19th century. As a little quiz, try to come up with more modern replacements for these three words!
Traditional French Christmas Songs
You might find some of these traditional French Christmas songs familiar! Many songs sung in France at Christmastime are sung to the same tune as American or English songs, but you’ll notice if you listen carefully that the lyrics are far from a simple translation.
3. “Vive le Vent”
Listen to “Vive le vent” and you might soon be singing a different tune. This song is based off of the American classic “Jingle Bells,” but the lyrics are very different.
Vive le vent, vive le vent, (Long live the wind, long live the wind)
vive le vent d’hiver (Long live the winter wind)
qui s’en va sifflant, soufflant (That whistles and blows)
dans les grands sapins verts. (Into the green pine trees)
Vive le temps, vive le temps, (Long live the weather, long live the weather)
vive le temps d’hiver (Long live the winter weather)
boules de neige et jour de l’an (Snowballs and New Year’s Day)
et bonne année grand-mère. (And Happy New Year grandmother!)
This is a catchy tune that’s fairly easy to learn if you already know “Jingle Bells.” It starts being played in France at Christmastime, even though, as the lyrics make clear, it’s more of a New Year’s song. (Of course, in English it started out as a Thanksgiving song, so there’s really no trouble there!)
Grammatically, the interesting point to uncover here is the use of present participles as description. Sifflant and soufflant here are present participles of the verbs siffler and souffler. They’re used the same way the -ing present participle can be used in English, to describe an action without using an active verb. This is a great advanced grammar point for French language learners to discover and use themselves!
4. “Douce Nuit”
“Douce Nuit” is yet another song you’ll likely recognize, as it’s sung to the tune of “Silent Night.”
In this case, it’s the second verse that interests us linguistically—though feel free to learn the first as well, which is far more common, as in the case in English as well.
Saint enfant, doux agneau! (Holy child, tender lamb)
Qu’il est grand ! Qu’il est beau! (How big he is! How beautiful he is!)
Entendez résonner les pipeaux (Listen to the flutes sound)
Des bergers conduisant leurs troupeaux (Shepherds driving their flocks)
Vers son humble berceau! (To his humble cradle)
Vers son humble berceau! (To his humble cradle)
The salient point to discover here is the use of que to create an exclamation. By placing que at the front of a sentence, the sentence becomes a remark of wonder and surprise, which is why I’ve translated it into English with the fronting word “how.”
This can be used for many sentences in your day-to-day French speech. “Que c’est bon!” (This is so good!) You can also use qu’est-ce que in place of the simple que: “Qu’est-ce que c’est bon!”
5. “Medley de Noël”
Of course, if none of these is really piquing your interest for the holidays, you might be more interested by Garou’s interpretation of a combination of French and English Christmas songs: “Medley Chants de Noël.”
The Québécois singer has united some of his favorite Christmas songs in both languages, offering you a chance to sample the translation stylings of a truly bilingual singer! While many French teachers warn against too much translation, in this case it’s truly interesting for a French language learner to discover how a singer of both languages chooses to incorporate both languages.
Bear these songs in mind as you make your Christmas playlist this year!
Happy holidays and bonnes fêtes from FluentU!
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
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All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
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