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The incomparable flavour of Christmas markets

Categories : Events, published on : 11/13/15

There is probably no festival more popular than Christmas. In Paris, it’s a great family event that is steeped in tradition, and preparations for enchanting celebrations are made throughout November.  In the capital, the Christmas lights shimmer, shop windows sparkle with red and gold lights and the wooden chalets at the Christmas markets fill the air with the scent of mixed spices and the fragrance of mulled wine.

An illuminated wooden village

In the heart of winter, cold is no object, and wide-eyed toddlers are fascinated by stalls filled with toys and sweets that inevitably remind us of our own childhood memories. We all relive the emotion of that first unexpected encounter with Santa Claus, the very one we have just sent our gift list to. Do you remember swearing to him, with an air of conviction, ‘I promise I’ve been good’ ? We’ll never forget that red fire truck or that special doll that was our reward for being good either. There is no better place than the aisles of the Christmas markets to relive those unique moments where reality seemed to disappear amid the magic of Christmas. Outside it may be dark and cold, but here, nestled in the heart of this small wooden village everything lights up and shines like a tale from the Arabian Nights.

A tradition dating back to the Middle Ages

A few years ago, Paris resumed a tradition that began well before the Middle Ages. All over Europe, at that time, feasts were held to mark the return of the winter solstice, a festival of pagan origin which merged with the cults of Saint Martin and Saint Nicolas. It was also when the people held the last great fairs of the year. They killed a pig in anticipation of a rigorous day of feasting, they pulled out the new wine for breakfast before Lent and brewed special beer to mark the occasion. A few days later, in Alsace, Saint Nicolas was honored with great pomp and ceremony, and the festive market was soon renamed as the Church of the Christ Child market. This is the source from which the Christmas markets we know today sprang, including those that take place in Provence under the auspices of Santons during the Advent festivities.

Locations all over Paris

From November, the Christmas markets open all over Paris, offering an opportunity to travel through unique neighborhoods. They nestle in Place Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Place de la Nation, at the bottom of the Champs Elysees and at the Trocadero. You are sure to find some amazing gift ideas, ideas for dressing your tree or items to help you cook up a feast on Christmas Eve. In short, everything you need to recall those special childhood moments.

Picture : Jean Pierre Dalbéra