Joyeux Noel from Paris
Christmas Eve in Paris is busy and festive.
Rue de Rivoli and the department stores are heaving with people, wrapped up against the winter’s cold and rushing about doing last minute shopping for presents and food.
Tourists wander around in awe, snapping up photos of window displays and Christmas lights and revellers pack the cafés clinking glasses of champagne with friends and family, enjoying the festive season.
Concerned that I might miss the opportunity to view the famous Christmas windows at Galeries Lafayette department store before they dismantled them for the January sales, I decided it fitting and somewhat stupid that I spend Christmas Eve strolling down Boulevard Haussmann and join the multitude of shoppers, tourists and admirers.
Please click on the images for a better view of these excellent window displays
Although you can enter the department store Galeries Lafayette directly from Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette metro station without climbing the stairs to the street, I had no intention to enter except for a quick look at the Christmas tree. It was the windows that I was here to see.
Surfacing from the metro, I was met with the usual, overwhelming amount of people, pushing and shoving to make their way down the Boulevard Haussmann, stopping to gaze and photograph the windows, smoke cigarettes or buy roasted chestnuts from vendors that are dotted along the street with a fuel cooker, set upon a metal supermarket shopping trolley.
It was chaos but it adds to the excitement.
Each year small platforms are erected in front of the windows to allow children to climb the ramps and get a prime view.
They squeal with laughter, call out to their parents ‘regardez’ – to look at what they see appearing before them, as you will hear in this video.
But this was the cutest thing that I saw today.
A TV camera man was about to shoot some footage of these exceptional Christmas windows and asked one of the parents if they minded him filming their child and that it would appear on the news tonight.
All of a sudden, there was an onslaught of parents preening and pushing their cute smiling children forward.
They were directed to peer into the window and then at the camera and unfortunately I missed filming the huge round of applause given to the kids after they had finished their shoot.
I might have had one or two tears in my eyes as we all laughed, clapped and cheered the kids for their performance. I felt equally as proud of the cute kids as their parents did.
It was such a sweet, unplanned moment for them and for me.
The windows are always spellbinding, moving and colourful, supported by big brand names but this year was something very special.
Advertising remained but was extremely subtle.
The theme was an all white, Arctic Christmas. Mechanical polar bears preparing for Christmas but if you look in the cabinet of this particular display, you will see the familiar bottle of Chanel No. 5.
The window below with its grand staircase and more polar bears decorating trees, very subtly advertised Mui Mui shoes but it was not lost on this little girl.
One silver sparkling shoe, rotating at the top of the staircase like Cinderella’s lost shoe had her captivated. A new Mui Mui fan in the making.
What made this years windows stand out above the previous was Lyon born artist Lorenzo Papace’s medium and that was paper. Everything you see above was created by using white paper.
The video of the mechanical polar bears and train set, was made from paper!
As was the giant Christmas tree that sits under the central, stained glass cupola. Usually a traditional green tree decorated by a big brand, advertising their wares but this year, it was made entirely of paper, including the ferris wheel and cable cars that accompanied it.
The white Arctic theme carried on through the entire store, including a display of the artist’s models of each window.
And French fashion designer, Christian Lacroix’s limited edition Evian water bottles were to be had for 2.69 euros a bottle!
If a glass of bubbles is more your thing, a Champagne bar has been set up on the rooftop, where you can brave the cold by swaddling up in blankets scattered around the all white deck, sit by a white table lamp and enjoy views of the Eiffel Tower or if you prefer to have the plat du jour in a warmer environment, you can dine in a clear plastic igloo.