Saturday, November 30, 2013

It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas

Samedi, 30 novembre.

First off, I have to admit that the title of this post is slightly misleading: it's not just now beginning to look like Christmas. It's looked like Christmas for a while. The mall has been lit up and decorated for weeks and I swear they started hanging Christmas lights before Halloween! I hadn't anticipated this level of intense holiday decoration in France, but it's actually not surprising. Christmas lacks a truly religious significance for most of the population; rather, the marchés de Noël are touted as an economic as much as traditional celebration. And since there's no Thanksgiving to serve as the official debut of the holiday season, why not start profiting early?

I made my official tour of Polygone, Montpellier's big indoor shopping mall, last weekend. I took the chance to stock up on winter supplies -- gloves and a warm new scarf -- and even to try a Brioche Saint-Nicolas. (Yum!) Because photos of all the over-the-top decorations just wouldn't do them justice, I made a little video.

In addition to the mall, there are signs of Christmas all over the city -- and some have been less expected than others! To mark the final day of blocages, I headed to the zoo on Wednesday morning with Kait, Brooke, and Molly. The cold had scared most of the animals inside and we were starting to feel a little silly for having trekked out to the zoo for nothing, when suddenly ... IT STARTED SNOWING. We all started freaking out -- jumping up and down and laughing and acting very not French. But can you blame us? Snow is rare in Montpellier in the first place and to have even a few flurries in November is downright impossible! Still, the snow flurries came. They came just the same!

Reindeer?! In the snow?! MUST BE CHRISTMAS.

Although we haven't had any more snow since Wednesday, there have been a few other magical signs of the season. Most importantly, I purchased my advent calendar!

And in the meantime, there's the Montpellier Christmas Market -- officially open as of this weekend! Last night was the Inauguration des Hivernales, the winter equivalent of Montpellier's famous Estivales. We got to the market bright and early ... only to stand around for at least a quarter of an hour, listening to speeches from members of the municipal government. (If only I had a euro for every time I heard them say "Christmas is for the children...") Still, it was all worth it as we counted down in unison with the mayor and watched as Place de la Comedie lit up!

... and as they launched into a 15-minute laser light/fountain show, which began to the soundtrack of 2001: A Space Odyssey and ended with us walking away, very confused. (I cannot even begin to fathom the logic behind the decisions that led to this spectacle, but there you have it.)

Although it was cold cold cold (and we had to run inside the mall to grab dinner and regain feeling in our toesies), we had a lot of fun walking around the Christmas Market. 

Sadly, the market isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Don't get me wrong: it's still a Christmas Market and therefore better than most of the other things on this planet. But my first impression last night was that the whole thing is exceedingly commercial, and not in a Santa-Claus-drinking-Coca-Cola way, but in a "we're-putting-the-MARKET-in-Christmas-Market" way. Most of the little stands were artisans selling handmade plates, fancy lamps, expensive scarves -- very pretty and interesting, but not really any different than what they'd sell at any regular market.

As we wandered around, I couldn't help but compare it to my memories off the Weihnachtsmärkte in Germany. (Namely, this one. Which, from the photos, is as great as I remember.) Where were the hand-dipped candles? The nutcrackers? The FOOD?! (Okay, so there was food. Just not much outside of the average crepe/gauffre stand and the obligatory South of France seafood bar.) Luckily, however, some of the more traditional merchants had decided to get all decked out for the holiday. We had a lot of fun checking out the more festive stands and Brooke even bought a little gingerbread man!


Although the Christmas Market wasn't quite as overwhelming as I had hoped, the lights and the festive atmosphere definitely made up for any disappointment! Place de la Comedie has never looked so lovely and I'm so excited that it's going to stay this beautiful and festive for the rest of my time in Montpellier.


  1. J'adore ton sourire!

  2. Looks so festive! I'm sure it got you in the mood and I'm so happy you all went for the opening.

  3. A countdown in France, too cool. Just to absorb the Christmas market effort would be something I'd enjoy. I love seeing any big mall all decorated and this one was gorgeous. Just strolling around would suit me to a tee. Have fun, buy yourself at least one Christmas ornament to remember this year in France and your market days. Love you, P&B

  4. It's lovely seeing all the bright decorations in the mall and everywhere. I loved the rhino in the snow!

    Paula Plachno

  5. Oh my goodness, it's so beautiful! Can't wait to have you home for Christmas!