Christmas in France

Is very different and not what I expected.

First are the Christmas markets.   Those are a big deal here, and I already showed the Ferris Wheels in Paris, Lille and Amiens that accompany the Christmas markets – aka les Marchés de Noël.

There are  few Santas here and there are few Christmas trees (and even those are kind of lame.)  Although I love France, I have to admit I got a lump in my throat when I saw these Sapins de Noël.

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In the U.S. these would be the Charlie Brown trees (They are about 5 feet high), but here these are the best.  This isn’t what’s left over the day before Christmas, these were the first ones to hit the store in mid- November.   As far as I’ve seen, the full, lush 8 foot trees we put in our homes n’existent pas in France.  (I guess they don’t have the tree farms here like we have back home.)

And here is the aisle of Christmas decorations in the same store (this is a store like Wal Mart):

003THIS IS IT!  THIS IS ALL THEY HAVE!  Can any American relate to this?  This would be the clearance aisle of the Dollar Store the week after Christmas back home!

Here’s what else you don’t see here:  houses lit and decorated for Christmas.  I have seen one – exactly ONE – lit and decorated house with Santa and his reindeer out front and I’m willing to bet that an American ex-pat lives there.  I have yet to see the first wreath on a door, either.

There are also no cars with wreaths or reindeer antlers.  Even though I have always found this kind of tacky, it just doesn’t really feel like Christmas without it.   Its funny how as Americans we scoff at the crass commercialism of Christmas and then we miss it when its not there.

One very surprising thing I hear, though, is American Christmas carols EVERYWHERE.  Strolling through the marché the other day I heard Elvis singing Blue Christmas.  And Bing Crosby is dreaming of a White Christmas everywhere you go.  A few weeks ago I walked down the Champs-Elysées listening to Bing and his American cronies sing about White Christmases and chestnuts roasting on an open fire, but I never heard the first carol sung in French.

Last night I went to the home of the family whose daughters I am tutoring in English.  They are a well to do family with a very nice home, but they had nothing decorated for Christmas – not one thing.   (As far as I can tell it isn’t because they are Jewish or Muslim, but seeing the slim pickings in the store I guess I can understand why.)

Coming up soon… the spectacular Polychromie sur la Cathédral d’Amiens.  This is one thing you will never see in the U.S. and it is better than all the trees that ever towered over Rockefeller Center.

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