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A Comprehensive Guide to Les Étrennes


Les Étrennes, meaning “New Year’s gifts” in French, is a cherished tradition that has been celebrated for centuries. Rooted in ancient Roman customs, this practice has evolved over time and continues to be observed in various parts of the world. In this blog article, we will delve into the historical origins of Les Étrennes, explore its cultural significance, and highlight modern traditions associated with this delightful custom.

Historical Origins

The origins of Les Étrennes can be traced back to ancient Rome, where citizens celebrated the new year by exchanging gifts known as “strenae.” These offerings, usually branches adorned with leaves and fruits, were symbols of good luck and prosperity. As the Roman Empire expanded, so did the practice of exchanging gifts during the New Year festivities.

Cultural Significance

Les Étrennes gained significance beyond ancient Rome and became deeply ingrained in European culture. In France, the tradition flourished during the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. It was customary for lords to present their vassals with monetary gifts as a token of appreciation for their loyalty and service.

The practice of Les Étrennes also took on a philanthropic aspect, with the wealthy giving gifts to the less fortunate during the holiday season. This act of charity and goodwill became a way to alleviate social inequalities and bring joy to those in need.

Modern Traditions

In contemporary times, Les Étrennes has adapted to modern lifestyles while preserving its core essence. The tradition continues to revolve around the exchange of gifts, but the recipients have expanded beyond vassals and the needy.

Family and friends now les etrennes exchange presents on New Year’s Day as a gesture of love and affection. It is common for parents to give Les Étrennes to their children, often in the form of money, sweets, or small trinkets. This act symbolizes their hopes for a prosperous and joyful year ahead.

In some regions of France, there are specific customs associated with Les Étrennes. For example, in Provence, the tradition of Calendale involves young people going door-to-door, singing traditional songs, and Guide to Les Étrennes receiving gifts in return. This practice not only strengthens community bonds but also preserves local cultural heritage.

Another popular tradition associated with Les Étrennes is the giving of envelopes containing money. These envelopes, known as “étrennes,” are often exchanged between colleagues, service providers, and employees. It is a way to express gratitude and appreciation for the services rendered throughout the year.

In addition to physical gifts, modern technology has influenced Les Étrennes. Digital gift cards and online shopping have become increasingly popular, allowing people to send their loved ones virtual presents or vouchers for their favorite stores. While the medium may have changed, the spirit of Les Étrennes remains intact.


Les Étrennes, a tradition rooted in ancient Rome, has transcended time and continues to thrive in modern society. It is a celebration of generosity, love, and hope for the coming year. From its origins as symbolic Guide to Les Étrennes branches to the exchange of digital gifts, Les Étrennes has adapted to suit the changing times while preserving its cultural significance. Whether it’s giving presents to loved ones, participating in local customs, or engaging in acts of charity, this timeless tradition serves as a reminder of the joy that comes from spreading kindness and goodwill during the holiday season.



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