Christmas in Paris goes over the top. You feel as if you’re being caught up in a swirling whirl of color, motion, music and activity. It is cold, and coat-clad shoppers, laden with gift-bags, throng the streets long past dark. Every shop window is a blaze of ingenuity and imagination, or, in the case of the bakers and confectioners, just plain overpowering deliciousness. When my hands get too cold to manage the camera, I stop at the roast-chestnut man’s cart to buy a paper cone of hot chestnuts to warm them, or at Santa’s gypsy caravan for un café.
Even with all the lights, shop windows, crowds and Christmas trees, Paris doesn’t forget the real meaning of Christmas. In French homes, churches, schools, and even on the streets and in the vitrines (shops windows), the Nativity comes alive in scenes like this, just as it has all over Europe since St Francis of Assisi created the first Christmas Eve praesepio (manger scene) with live animals hundreds of years ago.
Maybe Saint Francis left out the polar bears. After all, he did include live sheep and a donkey and cow. Polar bears might have been counter-productive (though ancient legends affirm that all the animals are at peace with one another on Christmas Eve).
A Ferris wheel at Christmas? Why not? If Ferris had invented his wheels in medieval times, they’d surely have had them at Christmas, along with the mummers and games.
It’s strange, though, to remember that the 3,000-year old obelisk on the Place de la Concorde comes from Luxor, Egypt. It stands where the guillotine once stood during the French Revolution. So much history, so many strands of human experience are interwoven here.
The Champs Elysees turns to ice! How Parisian cool can you get?
Children’s dreams – as close as you get to flying (safely strapped into harnesses!). Christmas angels, clowns, trampolines, wings, and dancing lights all rolled into one! Maybe they’re not so different from each other after all.
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