POPULATION: About 57 million
LANGUAGE: French; also Breton, Flemish, Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Provençal, and English
1 • INTRODUCTION
France, which has existed in its present form since the fifteenth century, is Europe's oldest and largest nation. It is a leader in intellectual trends, the fine arts, fashion, and cuisine. France is also the world's fourth-richest country, and Europe's leading agricultural producer.
Originally part of the Celtic region known as Gaul, France became part of the Roman Empire until its was overrun by the Franks in the fifth century ad. At the end of the tenth century, Hugh Capet (c.938–96) founded the dynasty that was to rule over the French for the next 800 years.
The French Revolution in 1789 was followed by the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821), who conquered much of Europe before his downfall in 1814. In the twentieth century, France has weathered two world wars and a worldwide economic depression, in addition to its own political and social upheavals and the loss of a large colonial empire. However, it has survived to become a major political and economic world power.
2 • LOCATION
France is the largest country in Europe and is located on the extreme west coast of the continent. Lowlands make up about half of France's terrain. The other half consists of hills or mountains. The English Channel lies to the north and northwest. The Mediterranean Sea lies to the south and southeast. Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany are neighbors on the north and northeast. Switzerland and Italy are situated to the east. Spain is to the south.
3 • LANGUAGE
French, a Romance language with Latin roots, is the national language not only of France's people but also of some 300 million other people throughout the world. Within France itself, other spoken languages include Breton, Flemish, Spanish, Catalan, Basque, and Provençal
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4 • FOLKLORE
Native folklore varies from region to region. Ancient Celtic religious sites can still be found in the north, along with remnants of ancient beliefs.
When a person dies, the doors and windows of the house are traditionally left open so that the soul can depart, and mirrors are turned to face the wall.
A folktale tells the story of a lily of the valley, a fragrant spring flower. According to legend, fairies of the forest held a dance. Each fairy used a tiny cup to gather dewdrops for the fairy queen's breakfast. The fairies hung their cups on blades of grass. On the day of a particular dance, the fairies were having so much fun that the sun rose before they knew it. (One of the laws of the fairy kingdom is that they must never be seen after the sun rises.) The sun turned the dewdrops to sparkling diamonds and dried them all away. When the fairies noticed the sunshine, they ran to gather their tiny cups. To their dismay, they found they were stuck to the blades of grass. The fairies began weeping, fearing that the queen would be angry. Just then, the fairy godmother appeared, waved her magic wand, and turned the blades of grass into stems and leaves to hide the cups from the angry queen. These stems and leaves became lilies of the valley.
5 • RELIGION
About 80 percent of the French population is Roman Catholic. However, fewer than one-fifth of Catholics attend church regularly. Protestants account for roughly 2 percent, mostly Calvinist or Lutheran. France also has 1.9 million Muslims (followers of Islam), mostly immigrants from northern Africa. The Jewish population in France is one of the largest in the world, estimated at 530,000 people.
6 • MAJOR HOLIDAYS
New Year's Eve is celebrated with a festive dinner. At midnight, family and friends wish each other a good year by kissing under mistletoe. For Epiphany on January 6, a large round pastry is baked with a bean hidden in it. The person who finds the bean becomes "ruler" for the evening. Mardi Gras, on Shrove Tuesday (the last day before Lent) in February, is marked by parades featuring flowers, floats, and giant cardboard figures. Labor Day on May 1 is celebrated by workers' parades.
May 8 marks the end of World War II (1939–45). France's national holiday (the equivalent of Independence Day, July 4, in the United States) is Bastille Day on July 14, which commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789. It is accompanied by parades, fireworks, and dancing in the streets. The French observe Christmas by attending a midnight Mass.
7 • RITES OF PASSAGE
Many of the rites of passage that young people undergo are religious rituals, such as baptism, first communion, confirmation, and marriage. In addition, many families mark a student's progress through the education system with graduation parties.
8 • RELATIONSHIPS
The French have a formality and reserve that is often interpreted as rudeness by outsiders. Money is generally considered something of a forbidden topic. It is considered especially rude to ask the size of someone's salary. When invited to another person's home, a French person will always bring along a gift of wine or flowers. Both men and women often greet each other by kissing on the cheek.
9 • LIVING CONDITIONS
Long, white-walled, red-tiled farmhouses are a typical sight in the French countryside. Most city dwellers live in rented apartments, often a short distance from where they work. It is becoming increasingly popular for city dwellers to maintain a second home in the country, where they can go on weekends. Immigrants from northern Africa often live in large suburban housing developments called cités, which are generally run-down and overcrowded.
10 • FAMILY LIFE
Traditionally, French households were made up of extended families—grandparents, parents, and children. As of the late 1990s, however, a modest-sized nuclear family with two or three children is the norm. Nonetheless, family ties remain strong. College-age children usually attend school in town, and families get together on birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. However, France's divorce rate has doubled since the 1960s. Today, one in three marriages ends in divorce…
French women who work outside the home earn about one-third less than men. The percentage of women who participate in the labor force has been unchanged—39 percent—since the early 1900s.
11 • CLOTHING
For their day-to-day activities, the French, both in the countryside and the cities, wear modern Western-style clothing. Perhaps the most typical item of clothing associated with the French is the black beret. It is still worn by some men, particularly in rural areas. The French are renowned for fashion design. Coco Chanel, Yves Saint-Laurent, Christian Dior, and Jean-Paul Gautier are all French fashion design houses whose creations are worn by people around the world.
Traditional regional costumes are still worn at festivals and celebrations. In Alsace, women may be seen in white, lace-trimmed blouses and aprons decorated with colorful flowers. Women's costumes in Normandy include white, flared bonnets and dresses with wide, elbow-length sleeves.
12 • FOOD
The French are famous for their elaborate, well-prepared cuisine. Each region of the country has its own specialties. Central France is famous for boeuf bourguignon, beef in red wine sauce. Southern France has a typical Mediterranean cuisine that depends heavily on garlic, vegetables, and herbs. One of its typical dishes is a vegetable stew called ratatouille.
A recipe for the classic French dessert, Crêpes Suzette, follows. To make the crêpes (very thin pancakes), French cooks use a special crêpe pan. Any small frying pan will work, but one with sloping sides is best
The French typically eat a modest petit déjeuner (pe-TEE day-jhe-NAY), or breakfast, of café au lait (ka-FAY oh-LAY), which is coffee with milk, and croissants or bread and butter. Déjeuner (day-jhe-NAY), or lunch, is a three- or four-course meal consisting of a main dish plus appetizer, salad, and dessert. Díner (dee-NAY), or dinner, is a lighter meal. The French are famous for their wines, which are commonly served at both lunch and dinner.
13 • EDUCATION
Education is required between the ages of six and sixteen. Public education is free. After five years of primary school, students spend four years at a middle school called a collège (koh-LEJ). The next three years are spent either at a general lycée (lee-SAY) for those planning to go on to college, or at a vocational lycée. After receiving their baccalauréat (back-ah-lahr-RAY-ah) degrees, students may go on to a university or to a grand école (grah eh-COAL), which offers preparation for careers in business or government service.
- 1¼ cups skim milk
- ¾ cup flour
- 2 eggs
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
- Vegetable oil spray
- For sauce
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 teaspoon grated orange peel
- ½–¾ cup fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 cup fresh strawberries or raspberries (frozen berries may be substituted; thaw when ready to use)
- Combine milk, flour, eggs, sugar, and oil, and mix thoroughly.
- Spray a 6-inch skillet with vegetable oil spray. Heat the pan over medium heat.
- Pour 2 tablespoons of batter into the pan. Quickly tilt the pan to spread the batter to form a thin coating on the bottom of the pan. Cook for about 1½ minutes, until the surface of the crêpe looks cooked and the edges begin to pull away from the pan.
- Quickly turn the skillet upside down over a plate lined with a paper towel and allow the finished crêpe to fall onto the paper towel.
- Repeat, lightly respraying the pan with vegetable oil after every 2 or 3 crêpes.
- When all the batter has been used, take each crêpe and fold it in half and then in quarters to form a triangle.
- In a large skillet, combine butter, orange peel, orange juice, and sugar. Heat to boiling, and then reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.
- Carefully arrange folded crêpes in sauce. Sprinkle the berries over the cr ê pes. Heat for about 5 minutes. Serve warm.
(Adapted from American Heart Association, Around the World Cookbook. New York: New York Times Books, 1996.)
14 • CULTURAL HERITAGE
France has made significant contributions in all of the fine arts. In the nineteenth century, France was famous for its Impressionist painters, including Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919), Claude Monet (1840–1926), and Edouard Manet (1832–83). The most famous French sculptor was Auguste Rodin (1840–1917). Post-impressionists Paul Cézanne (1839–1906), Paul Gauguin (1848–1903), and Henri Matisse (1869–1954) had a great influence on twentieth-century painting.
France's great musicians include the nineteenth-century composers Hector Berlioz (1803–69), Claude Debussy (1862–1918), and Maurice Ravel (1875–1937). Pierre Boulez (1925–) is well-known worldwide as a composer and conductor. France is also an international center for ballet.
Nineteenth-century novelists Victor Hugo (1802–85), Honoré de Balzac (1799–1859), and Emile Zola (1840–1902) wrote about the social issues of their time. Marcel Proust (1871–1922) is considered France's greatest twentieth-century writer.
15 • EMPLOYMENT
About two-thirds (65 percent) of the French labor force is employed in service-related jobs, close to a third (30 percent) in industry, and only 5 percent in agriculture. The work week averages thirty-nine hours, and the work day can begin as early as 6:00 or 7:00 am. There is a two- to three-hour break for lunch, the main meal of the day, and the work day usually ends at about 7:00 pm. Most French workers get five weeks of paid vacation per year. Most people take the month of August for vacation.
16 • SPORTS
The French are avid soccer fans. Other spectator sports include rugby, horse racing, and auto racing. France's most famous annual sporting event is the Tour de France bicycle race, first held in 1903. Popular participation sports include fishing, shooting, swimming, skiing, and mountain climbing.
17 • RECREATION
Activities such as gardening, home improvement, and cooking are popular leisure-time pursuits. Television is also popular, and France has the world's fourth-highest rate of movie attendance. Vacation trips—especially to the beach in August—are favorite activities among the French.
French children enjoy playing a simple marble game. The game can be played near any wall with about three to six feet (one to two meters) of smooth surface in front of it. A line is drawn three feet (one meter) from the wall and parallel to it. Taking turns, each player rolls a marble toward the wall. The marble coming closest to the wall without touching is the winner. More rounds of the game can be played by drawing the line further away from the wall.
Adapted from Hamilton, Leslie. Child's Play Around the World. New York: Berkeley Publishing, 1996.
18 • CRAFTS AND HOBBIES
Folk arts are kept alive throughout France's distinctive regions. In Burgundy, artisans produce sabots (wooden shoes), vielles (stringed musical instruments), and other craft items. Many parts of France have rich folk music traditions. Traditional Basque folk poets, called bertsolariak, improvise and sing rhymes on any subject. Folk dancing is also extremely popular among the Basques.
19 • SOCIAL PROBLEMS
France is affected by many of the major problems facing other European nations, such as high unemployment, pollution, and inadequate housing. There are still sharp class divisions and great contrasts between the income of the rich and the poor. In addition, services are lacking for immigrants and the elderly, whose numbers are increasing.
20 • BIBLIOGRAPHY
American Heart Association, Around the World Cookbook. New York: Times Books, 1996.
Buckland, Simon. Guide to France. New York: Kingfisher Books, 1994.
Hamilton, Leslie. Child's Play Around the World. New York: Berkeley Publishing, 1996.
Norbrook, Dominique. Passport to France. New York: Franklin Watts, 1994.
Sookram, Brian. France, Major World Nations. Philadelphia: Chelsea House Publishers, 1997.
Embassy of France, Washington, D.C. [Online] Available http://www.info-france-usa.org/, 1998.
French Government Tourist Office in the United States. [Online] Available http://www.francetourism.com, 1998.
World Travel Guide. France. [Online] Available http://www.wtgonline.com/country/fr/gen.html, 1998.
"French." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/french
"French." Junior Worldmark Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/international/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/french
French Republican Calendar a reformed calendar officially introduced by the French Republican government on 5 October 1793, and taken to have started on the equinox of 22 September 1792, the day of the proclamation of the Republic. It had twelve months of thirty days each (divided into three weeks of ten days), Vendemiaire, Brumaire, Frimaire, Nivose, Pluviose, Ventose, Germinal, Floréal, Prairial, Messidor, Thermidor, and Fructidor, and with five days of festivals at the year's end (six in leap years). It was abandoned under the Napoleonic regime and the Gregorian calendar was formally reinstated on 1 January 1806.
French Revolution the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy in France (1789–99). The Revolution began with the meeting of the legislative assembly (the States General) in May 1789, when the French government was already in crisis; the Bastille was stormed in July of the same year. The Revolution became steadily more radical and ruthless with power increasingly in the hands of the Jacobins and Robespierre. Louis XVI's execution in January 1793 was followed by Robespierre's Reign of Terror (September 1793–July 1794). The Directory, the last of several different forms of republican administration, was overthrown by Napoleon in 1799.
French Wars of Religion a series of religious and political conflicts in France (1562–98) involving the Protestant Huguenots on one side and Catholic groups on the other. The wars were complicated by interventions from Spain, Rome, England, the Netherlands, and elsewhere, and were not brought to an end until the defeat of the Holy League and the settlement of the Edict of Nantes.
"French." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/french
"French." The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/french
The French are citizens of France (the French republic). Including the island of Corsica, France occupies 549,183 square kilometers and in 1990 had an estimated population of 56,184,000. About 10 percent of the population is composed of immigrants and workers from Italy, Spain, Portugal, and other European nations and refugees from former French colonies in Southeast Asia and Africa. French is the language of France and about 90 percent of the people are Roman Catholics, with a large Muslim population made up mainly of immigrants from northern Africa, especially Algeria. A strong Parisian-centered government and centralized authority began to emerge in the tenth century, and in the twentieth century mass communication has strengthened French nationalism at the expense of the regional cultures. Still, though, there are viable regional cultures and marked linguistic variations. Among the major regional cultures are the Alsatians in the east; the Corsicans on the Mediterranean island of Corsica; the Bretons in the northwest; the Burgundians, Auvergnats, and Aveyronnais in central France; and Aquitaine, Occitans, Provencal, and the Basques in the south.
See also Alsatians; Aquitaine; Auvergnats; Aveyronnais; Basques; Bretons; Burgundians; Jurassians; Occitans; Provencal; Walloons
Kurian, George T. (1990). Encyclopedia of the First World. 2 vols. New York: Facts on File.
Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations (1988). 7th ed. New York: Worldmark Press.
"French." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/french-1
"French." Encyclopedia of World Cultures. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/french-1
Hence Frenchify XVI.
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"French." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/french-2
"French." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 16, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/french-0
"French." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved August 16, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/humanities/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/french-0