Christmas in Paris – oh the lights!

Business associations get together with the town halls to illuminated our holiday season evenings in the City of Light. A large portion of the budget is sponsored by the businesses on the illuminated streets. On rue de Sevrès and Saint Placide this is quite clear as the names of the businesses are actually suspended in luminous red letters as part of the decoration. Most of the other displays however are simply for the beauty of the lights and the gaiety that they provide to shopping areas. Nearly all are done with LED technology to keep costs and energy use to a minimum. There are about 100 streets and many monuments which are illuminated. The lights will be on through the first week in January. Here’s a few of our favorite displays.

SembatPlace Marcel Sembat – Boulogne-Billancourt, M° Marcel Sembat
This circle was previously decorated by a giant champagne glass, but the folks in Boulogne were not too partial towards the glass and so the structure was transformed in 2009 to be a 12 meter tall Christmas tree. In fact the tree is not one tree but many trees… stacked. It was the only way to be able to have a huge tree in the middle of this large traffic circle which is also above a tunnel. A single tree would have been simply too heavy for the tunnel to support. A single tree is also very costly and complicated to put up (see Notre Dame’s story below). So Boulogne stacks 114 3.5 meter trees on a 5 tiered structure that used to be a champagne glass. The process is done at night to avoid complications at this busy intersection of eight streets. It takes seven people five nights to build the tree and decorate it complete with a star on the top. Boulogne has many other lovely decorations on streets and squares. They say there are 2077 sets of lights! There is a Christmas market at the Grande Place too. Boulogne is well worth a tour – but of course we’re partial.

Notre Dame
Traditionally financed by the cathedral and the neighborhood businesses, this year’s Christmas tree is for the first time offered by private funds and the city of Moscow. Generous contributors from Russia have undertaken the delivery and putting up of the 25 meter tall tree in celebration of Franco-Russian friendship. The tree itself, with transportation costs included, is estimated to be worth 25,000 euros. The tree was transported from Russia across Europe by truck, taking four days, then carefully threaded one night through the streets of Paris to arrive in front of Notre Dame. The solidity and security of the installation is a particular concern this year as in 2013 the tree toppled over on Christmas eve. 40,000 euros has been spent by the cathedral just for this purpose.Lights-1

Les Champs-Elysées
Designed by the French firm Blachère Illuminations*, a forty year old French company, the Christmas lights on The Champs are cascading garlands of LEDs in the 200 trees. Entitled ‘Scintillance’, this year’s display is new, contemporary, sparkling and even more environmentally friendly. Since 2006, the energy required to power the Champs-Elysées’ Christmas lights over their 48 night-run has fallen from 480,000kWh to 10,990kWh today. This is the equivalent of 10% of the energy consumed by a typical French family over a year. In addition, the quantity of energy consumed by the Christmas lights this year will be offset by energy from a company specialized in solar energy production (Soitec) which is a partner of the illuminations. Also in the area don’t miss kissing under the mistletoe balls of avenue Montaigne and the always elegant decorations of rue Saint Honoré and place Vendôme. With your guests can take a tour bus which offers a special Christmas lights tour.

LecourbeRue Lecourbe, 15th arrondissement – personal favorite
The ribbons of light that zigzag down about 600 meters of rue Lecourbe are stunning. Rue Lecourbe is one of the longest streets in Paris at 2.4 kilometers total, it is a very wide street too at 17 meters in breadth. When you stand at the top of this rue Lecourbe where it intersects with avenue Pasteur (Mo Sevrès-Lecourbe) and look to the south the effect of the light ribbons is as if it were a continuous canopy over the street. Nowhere have I seen lights this dense and the results gets my vote for the best individual street this year.

Forum des Halles, 1st arrondissement
An eight meter tall interactive Christmas tree decorates the Forum des Halles. The tree is connected to four instruments of different colors: a blue guitar, an orange saw, green drum set and a red bass. Passersby can play these instruments which effect the lighting on the tree by adding their respective color.

Visit this site for a short list of Christmas Nativity scenes

*PS: Blanchère Illuminations also offers lights in many shapes and forms for home decoration, see their boutique online