December arrives and naked branches are draped in strings of lights. Lattice of Christmas vows and large chandeliers draped overhead light nights that begin before workdays end. Little ones open doors on advent calendars, eating a chocolate each day as the count down begins.
Florist shops resemble shrunken forests of trees small enough to fit into cramped Paris apartments. Once home and the twine cut branches spring out as the tree becomes as wide as it is tall. Planted in a split log it waits for a mountain of presents to assemble below.
Villages of dollhouses draped in cotton snow assemble below the Tour Montparnasse, on the la Defense plaza and down the Champs Elysee. All the ornaments, sweaters, and jewellery they sell at the Marche de Noel are things that nobody quite needs, like another tie on father’s day, but browse anyway and sip orange and cinnamon infused spiced wine to keep warm.
There is an urgency to the shopping on Boulevard Haussmann but outside Printemps, Paris’ oldest and largest department store, crowds assemble around each window. Russian stacking dolls open and close rhythmically, in the dead of the forest a table is laid in the finest crystal and women in beaded gowns promenade with fur coated animals. Amid the crowd, in repurposed shopping carts roasted chestnut are peddled by the cone-full.
The holidays begin as children are released from school and buche de Noel line boulangerie windows. On the réveillon family gather together for a candlelight feast on foie gras and oysters that trails into the sleepless night before Christmas.