A few weeks ago, a friend posted this on Twitter:
“Parisians: even though you’ve seen it in the movies, unless you ONLY hang out in midtown, NY doesn’t really do Christmas very well.”
My reply: What, what? As a longtime resident of New York, I stepped up to defend the city that does everything over the top, including the holidays.
But seeing how Paris does Christmas, I started to understand what my friend was talking about. It’s like Vegas over here. Every shop no matter how small, every cafe, is tarted up and bling-ed out, with glorious and often artistic trimmings. Fantastical swags of lights adorn most every street. The entire city explodes in color, twinkles and glows—from the Champs-Élysées to the tiniest lane in the 11th arrondissement.
This exuberance, this desire to celebrate, was especially meaningful this year, after the attacks of November 13th that rocked Paris. In spite of the grim realities, festive lights began to crop up, adorned pine swags appeared above cafe awnings, bedecked trees went up in front of town halls around the city. With each sign of the season, my heart lightened. Somehow, seeing Christmas trees for sale at the local florist made me feel everything could be normal again. Paris would be okay, and so would I.
Being raised Catholic, of course the Christmas-y trappings have meaning to me. And part of me did wonder if this ostentatious expression of Christianity might be just the kind of thing that further isolates our non-Christian neighbors. It’s how we are thinking now, and maybe should have before. But I hope, regardless of one’s religion, just seeing Paris sparkling and glorified again might bring with it its own joy, one that transcends and unites.
After being thrust into darkness and fear, to have the streets and buildings illuminated and festooned, seems to indeed lift the collective mood in the city. Now more than ever, Paris needed a reason to rejoice and celebrate, and the holidays served up the perfect opportunity—a chance to embrace the giving spirit of the season, the goodness in each of us. After everything we’d been through, we could all use a little peace on earth, good will toward men, no?
How Paris Does the Season
From the grandest shops to the humblest streets, Paris really decks its halls.
Wishing everyone a beautiful holiday season, and a New Year that is prosperous, and peaceful. —L.A.