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Twinkling lights. Animated store windows. Marchés de Noël. Luxury goods interwoven with holiday haute design. Pop-up villages and fairs, with shopping huts, festive food, and things to ride, slide down, and climb.
Bottomless vin chaud. Bundles of fir trees waiting patiently in the streets for a home. Smells of roasting chestnuts. Bustling holiday energy.
The City of Light always lives up to its name, especially during the holidays.
The Big Five
The thematic decorations are launched by celebrity guests long before Thanksgiving — everyone anxious to start the spirit of the season early.
The elaborate window creations capture the imagination of shoppers and passersby as, each year, they tell a new creative story.
The young and the young-at-heart cluster around the dancing windows of Printemps on Boulevard Haussmann. A circus theme reveals characters of all species, acrobats, aerialists, tightrope walkers, trapeze artists, and clowns.
Spoiler alert: keep your distance if you suffer from coulrophobia (fear of clowns) or if you’re averse to springtime green (the dominant palette this year for Printemps).
Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann presents its famous five-story holiday tree reaching up to the art nouveau cupola. Each year the tree design is more unique than the last. This year, extraterrestrial neon and galactic blue have replaced traditional glitter and ornaments, with a special light show every 30 minutes.
The Galeries Lafayette theme is Planete Sapin, a fantastical planet where Christmas trees rule (based on a book by Claire Castillon).
The tree characters have anthropomorphic fun in each window, as they prepare to send a representative to Planet Earth to save the holiday spirit.
While these displays don’t seem to attract as many kids as their neighbor Printemps, the subtle humor of the storyteller/designers is truly inventive. The trees are reading books like The History of Wood, and the baby trees are, of course, acorns. You have to look carefully to find all the clever details.
Le Bon Marché
The Rive Gauche department store Bon Marché celebrates 170 years of holiday celebrations with displays that show the development of ornaments, from the glass blowing stage to the atelier des couleurs. The windows are filled with balls and baubles of all sizes and stages of fabrication, happily attended by hard-working elves.
Samaritaine whisks us into a world of dance, from tutus and toe shoes to disco to rock and roll, all interwoven with the glamour of upscale Paris shopping.
Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville
BHV Marais brings a little bit of Provence to Paris, with prancing livestock that seem to be an amalgam of goat/sheep/cow. The cicadas circle overhead, with smushed football bodies and Icarus-sized wing spans.
The Hôtel de Ville
Each year, a festive forest emerges in front of the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), filled with trees grown on French farms. After the holiday season, the trees are mulched to be used in the city’s parks.
The labyrinth of fir and lights offers something for everyone: shopping huts, food stands, carousel rides, rock climbing, and a luge run.
Certain streets and areas of Paris have gained a rightful reputation as worth a visit during the holidays. The Champs Elysées trees are draped with lights that change from blue to gold throughout the evening. Avenue Montaigne offers arches of twinkles over the haute couture boutiques.
Place Vendôme and Bercy Village are transformed into enchanted fairylands, as is the Tuileries garden, with the annual holiday fair and prominent red, white, and blue ferris wheel. The Jardin des Plantes and the Jardin d’Acclimatation also have magical displays and illuminations.
There is much to see around the city, but sometimes it’s nice to just enjoy the neighborhood corner, in all its quiet elegance.
Happy Holidays to all from Bonjour Paris!
Lead photo credit : Photo © Meredith Mullins.