In December, the much-anticipated Christmas is finally coming! Despite the cold and the grey sky weather, it is actually a good time to travel to France for those interested in the local culture and celebrations! Paris in particular, honors its reputation as the City of Lights and splendid decorations illuminate all the major landmarks and streets ! December is also interesting as it is less crowded but still animated with plenty of things to do, altogether with a general Christmas feeling. Definitely a must for families. Come and take a look at what we have selected for you this month 🙂
Christmas lights, windows show…and shopping!
For anyone visiting Paris in December and a must-see for any family, are the Paris Christmas light decorations and department stores’ windows animations! The City and all its major spots will transform into a fairy tale glimpse of lights, candles, blinks and colors! Dreamy, meteor-like lights will be seen on Champs Elysees, Avenue Montaigne, Montmartre, near the Concorde and Tuileries and of course on the Eiffel Tower.
The Department Stores near Opera such as Printemps and Galeries Lafayette, and most luxury brands on the Champs Elysees also make a particular effort in the preparation of their Christmas windows. Toys and traditional animations are usually displayed in the windows for the mesmerizing pleasure of kids watching these ephemeral theatres of trains, toys, puppets and magical beings.
The best part of it? Christmas lightings and stores decorations are changed every year, so you will never see twice the same thing!
And for growns-ups? Well December is usually the time where everybody shops for presents! Don’t expect major discounts, but definitely all the best selections are kept for this time of the year, with usually plenty of beautiful clothing, value packs and tons of gift ideas! Avoid the days from the 20th to the 24th of December when you usually get thousands of last minute Frenchies rushing to stores for last minute Christmas purchase!
In our November travel guide we mentioned the Christmas markets in Alsace, which are for sure the most traditional and amazing ones in France! But in fact, you don’t need to travel so far to enjoy the Christmas markets! Since the 1990s, they have gradually spread throughout Europe, and can be found in many French cities, usually around the main Church or Cathedral.
In Paris, they have become an important part of the entire town’s Christmas Magic! From the beginning of December, there will be Christmas markets in Les Halles, Notre-Dame, Champs de Mars, the Champs Elysees and even in the business district of La Défense (for those on business trips!!). Enjoy wandering along the Christmas decorations, crafts and farm products, and don’t forget to have a drink of “vin chaud”!
For those of you looking for a really traditional and unique experience, or for the ones who have not found a French friend to welcome them in their family on 24th of December, we suggest you have a look at the Christmas Eve Mass. Celebrated in every French church, the Christmas mass is known to be grandiose in Notre-Dame de Paris where believers come from all over the world, but also the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur and the Eglise de la Madeleine. You can expect pious praying for blessings but also lots of beautiful choir singing and concerts!
“Fantasy Architect Jean Jacques Lequeu (1757-1826)”
An exhibition held jointly by the Petit Palais and the National Library of France, it presents over 100 drawings and sketches by Jean-Jacques Lequeu, a singularly gifted 18th-century architect, marked by his deep solitude. With a fantastic imagination as his driving force, he expressed unreal landscapes and portraits with an incredible attention to detail, which is surprising for things that do not exist! For the first time ever, visitors can enter the mysterious world of this unusual character. A very original event that can be seen from December 2018 until March 2019 !
How do the French do it? Christmas holidays
Similarly to August, Christmas time is a traditional period of the year where all the Frenchies go on vacation with the family, usually for one or two weeks.
In the most traditional families, Christmas would be celebrated as follows: a light meal on the 24th evening, attending the Christmas mass at midnight and celebrating with a very big family lunch on the 25th of December.
Over time, many families have moved to enjoying the big family dinner on the 24th instead, comprising of many delicacies such as foie gras, oysters, oven-roasted turkey, cheeses, desserts and of course amazing wine bottles all along! Did you know? In Provence they even have special traditions: not only they tend to more often display the traditional Christmas Crib in their homes, but and they also serve 13 different kinds of sweet desserts to commemorate the Christ last supper! 13 desserts!!
But regardless of the place, children discover the presents brought by Santa below the Christmas tree on the morning of the 25th of December.
And festive season is not over! While New Year’s Eve is rather celebrated with friends than family members, it is still common to gift the children with some money, as an auspicious start to the year !
Make sure you visit a French family if you happen to travel during the Christmas season! It is an experience you will not forget!