French Language Blog

French Culture – Decorating Posted by on Nov 24, 2020 in Culture, Vocabulary

For many, the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US marks the official start of the holiday season. France doesn’t officially have Thanksgiving, and so souvent le temps des fêtes commence (the holiday period begins often) right after la Toussaint.

Noël aux Grands Magasins 

One of the first signs of Christmas’s impending arrival, in Paris at least, can be found in the interiors and, for passers-by, the vitrines1In French they say faire du lèche-vitrines / to do some window licking for window shopping (display windows) that line les trottoirs (the sidewalks) of this city’s major department stores. And this year’s Covid confinement hasn’t stopped Christmas from coming!

Over at the Printemps Haussmann, le thème est “Partageons Noël” (the theme is “Let’s share Christmas”). Click here to see some of the 92 characters across un décor de mer, de montagne ou encore de forêt (ocean, mountain, or even forest scenes).

At the Galeries Lafayette, it’s a voyage de Noël (Christmas voyage) with Céleste, une jeune exploratrice (a young explorer), who travels to world to bring plein de cadeaux (lots of gifts/presents) back to Paris with her. Enjoy her travels here.

Like all the Grands Magasins, the Galeries Lafayette is currently closed, but when it reopens visitors will also be able to enjoy what is being billed as le plus grand sapin du monde, au centre de la coupole (the largest Christmas tree in the world, in the center of the famous dome). Check it out on Instagram.

Across town, the BHV Marais (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville / Bazaar at the City Hall), is also taking visitors on a trip of sorts with des vitrines inspired by Italy and le plus célèbre pantin italien, Pinocchio (the most famous Italian puppet, Pinocchio). See him, along with a puppet chat (cat) in a décor richement orné de sapins et de guirlandes lumineuses (richly decorated with pine trees and lighted garlands) here.

Le saviez-vous?
The world’s very first – and longest running – department store is in Paris. Le Bon Marché (The good deal), founded in 1852, established many of the shopping ideas that drive so much (for better or worse!) of today’s retail economy including returns, mail order, and even home delivery. You can read more about this innovative store in this CNN Travel article, watch a short and entertaining video in French from Arte … or discover the inner workings and the early days of the store in Émile Zola’s famous novel Au Bonheur des Dames. Weirdly, I could find no pictures of the vitrines du Bon Marché!

Noel aux Champs Elysées

Les Grands Magasins aren’t the only ones to get on their lumières de fêtes (Holiday/celebration lights). This past dimanche (Sunday), l’inauguration des illuminations des Champs Elysées s’est fait en ligne (the lighting of the Champs Elysees took place on line). 

Because of the current couvre-feu, no one could attend the traditional lighting of the Christmas lights along the famous avenue … so they improvised a way that chacun pourrait participer à l’événement en allumant les ampoules depuis chez soi, via une plateforme en ligne (each person could patriciate in the event by lighting the bulbs from home, using an online platform).

In the video below, you can enjoy the results of this unprecedented “tree lighting” and see some of the vitrines from the Grands Magasins featured.

Photo by Element5 Digital from Pexels

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    In French they say faire du lèche-vitrines / to do some window licking for window shopping
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About the Author: Tim Hildreth

Since my first trip to France at 16, I have been a passionate francophile. I love the language, food, music, art, people, and more that make France and la Francophonie in general such an amazing part of our global community. Having lived in France and studied the language and culture for over 35 years, it is my great pleasure to be able to share a little bit of my deep love with you through this blog.