I didn’t really notice the end of 2013 approaching until I started seeing “Meilleurs Vœux” posts from my francophone friends on facebook. Although the expression can be used any time to mean “best wishes”, I wouldn’t be surprised if it saw 90% or more of its use in the weeks before and after a new year.
In fact, I barely saw a peep from my francophone friends about Christmas, but they’re going nuts for the new year. And a number of them belong to various Christian denominations, so it’s not that they didn’t celebrate Christmas. But from my own experiences and interactions with (some) French people, Christmas in France is, if celebrated, more a family thing, and therefore more private. Compare this to the good old US of A, where 81% of non-Christians celebrate Christmas (according to the Pew Research Center) and where the holiday is a public event.
Christmas may be more personal and private for the French, but the new year is universal and secular (yes, I know there are culture-specific calendars as well, such as the Hijri, but the Gregorian is used everywhere in some capacity or other) and perhaps that’s why we often send and receive Christmas cards in the US, while the French equivalent is the carte de vœux.
Bonne année et meilleurs vœux à vous tous!