Montbéliard © French Moments - Christmas 14

Last Updated: 18 November 2023

Every year during Advent, the German-style Montbéliard Christmas market is held to the delight of the young people of the town. Since its first edition in 1986, the Christmas market has been one of the most popular of its kind in France with more than 400,000 visitors.

Montbéliard, the City of the Princes

Montbéliard, also nicknamed the City of the Princes (la Cité des Princes) is located in Franche-Comté, near the border with Alsace. During the Middle-Ages, it was the head city of the County of Montbéliard (or County of Mömpelgard). The feudal county was part of the Holy Roman Empire and was held by the Princes of Wurttemberg from 1444 to the French Revolution. For centuries, it has been one of the few Protestant (specifically Lutheran) enclaves in France, similar to that of Mulhouse.

Today, Montbéliard is particularly known for being the birthplace of the famous car maker Peugeot.

Since 2011, the TGV Rhin-Rhône links Montbéliard to Paris in just 2h15.

Christmas Market and ‘Lumières de Noël’

Montbeliard-Christmas © French Moments

Every year during Advent, a German-style Christmas market is held in Montbéliard. Since its first edition 25 years ago, the Christmas market has been one of the most popular of its kind in France with more than 400,000 visitors. The success of the market is partly due to a spectacular illumination design of the old town’s streets. Each day of Advent, the Christmas lights are an enchantment to visitors. From Place Denfert-Rochereau to the Railway station, 115,000 light bulbs are displayed in spectacular motives such as volutes and arches.

Montbéliard at Christmas time © French Moments
Montbéliard at Christmas time © French Moments

The Christmas market is made up of more than 120 stalls and is located at the foot of the Temple Saint-Martin, the oldest Lutheran Temple in France built in 1601. The craftsmen are carefully selected by the municipality to exhibit their great traditional products (pottery, candles, hats, scarves, bags, glasswork, paintings…) and local produce (foie gras, tartes flambées, chocolates, biscuits, waffles and crêpes) which make original gifts. In 2010, the guest of honour of Montbéliard’s Christmas festivities was Louisiana, in 2011 the Basque country, in 2012 Wallonia, in 2013 Brittany (Bretagne), in 2014 Portugal, in 2015 Scotland, in 2016 Austria. In 2017, the guest of honour is Corsica.

Montbéliard © French Moments - Christmas 64
Christmas market of Montbéliard © French Moments

Tante Airie

The Holiday season in Montbéliard is personified by Saint Nicolas, Santa Claus and Aunt Airie, the local good fairy who wanders through the land with her little donkey Marion. Tradition has it that on Christmas night Aunt Airie (Tante Airie) had her donkey Marion carry the wrapped presents to the well-behaved children. She is still part of the local tradition of Montbéliard and has somehow resisted the strong influence of Santa.

Montbéliard Christmas Market Franche-Comté © French Moments
Montbéliard Christmas Market, Franche-Comté © French Moments

English-French Vocabulary

(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin and (v) for verbs

  • Advent = Avent (m)
  • Christmas = Noël (m)
  • Christmas Eve = réveillon (m)
  • Christmas market = marché de Noël (m)
  • Christmas night = nuit de Noël (f)
  • county = comté (m)
  • craftsman = artisan (m)
  • Father Christmas = Père Noël (m)
  • holiday season = période de Noël (f), temps des fêtes (m)
  • illumination = illumination (f)
  • present = cadeau (m)
  • Santa Claus = Père Noël (m)
  • St. Nicholas = Saint Nicolas (m)
  • Wurttemberg = Wurtemberg (m)
Père Noël in Montbéliard © French Moments
Père Noël in Montbéliard © French Moments

Find out more about the Christmas season in Montbéliard: (in English)


Christmas in Paris ebook
Journey to the Land of Christmas
About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of Discovery Courses and books about France.

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