Call Me Scrooge in Paris
I am probably the worst person in Paris to ask what to do during the holidays, even though I am ALWAYS here for both Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Visitors come here hoping to spend a fabulous vacation enjoying one or both of these special days, expecting Paris to somehow transform their idea of what a normal Christmas or New Year’s Eve ought to be into something magical. This is one reason I am always here — to welcome home my visiting daughter (holiday break from university in New York) and entertain all the friends who land in Paris for what they imagine will be those magical moments.
For those of you here now or headed this way, I hate to burst your bubble…but while Paris is magical in every sense of the word, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are hardly different than anywhere else you might spend it. Bah, humbug! Do I sound like Scrooge?
Let me enlighten you…
On Christmas Eve, families gather together just like anywhere else. For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, like a little Jewish girl like me, there’s not a whole lot to do while everyone else is carving their Christmas turkey. Even the cinemas shut down early (my daughter and I tried that one year, only to discover we had to turn back for home and put a video in the VCR). If you’re visiting, then expect most restaurants to be closed, certainly all the shops and the only place to find a little life may be the Champs-Elysées.
There is one ray of hope though for a really special treat…take in the Midnight Mass at Eglise de la Madeleine on Christmas Eve starting at 10:30 p.m. and running till the last Métro about 12:30 a.m. The service will have all the “bells and smells” associated with the top Catholic celebrations. I may have to take this in myself, but don’t dare tell my mother I went to church!
Christmas Day will be QUIET. Don’t expect to see nary a soul on the streets and barely a place to have a meal. I recommend shopping the day before at the many “traiteurs” (prepared food shops) for foie gras, oysters on the half shell, chocolates and other goodies and enjoying a picnic in your rental apartment or hotel room or in some pretty spot in the city as long as you can stand the cold. In the afternoon, you may find others strolling to just take in the sights — always a pleasure in the City of Light.
This year, as luck has it, on Christmas Day Eve we’ll be lighting the Chanukiah (menorah, candelabra) for the first night of Chanukah, which is a non-religious, but traditional Jewish holiday that has became more important just because it falls near Christmas. It’s fun, though, lighting the menorah every night for eight nights and giving gifts to the kids every night, too — plus there are loads of special foods and treats as part of the tradition to make you uhmmm. You can find it all in the Jewish quarter of Le Marais along rue des Rosiers and neighboring streets: “dreidels” (gaming tops), candles, menorahs and “latkes” (potato pancakes). Make this a part of your holiday experience.
Between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, life goes back to semi-normal… the shops, museums and most restaurants will be open, the holiday lights sparkling. Then New Year’s Eve hits and everyone is scrambling for something exciting to do. Restaurants and clubs open for this special evening…but of course, at a big price.
I hold a party just about every year for this very reason — to give my closest friends a holiday haven and celebrate in the comfort of home, with all the trimmings and lots of champagne. Even though as host I get the pleasure of cleaning up after a night of bawdy behavior, the advantage is that I don’t have to leave home to have fun.
If you’re not on someone’s guest list and you aren’t hosting a party yourself, then we do have a list of suggestions for New Year’s parties and great holiday dining in Paris including a Disco Classic, a Backstage Special, a Boy-Friendly Girl’s Club Allstars, Gourmet at the Man Ray and more!
For these and more be sure to visit today’s Parler Paris Previews Community Calendar at /parlerparis/calendar.html
And if all else fails, there is always the Champs-Elysées for a New Year’s Eve stroll — expect some drunkenness, a few fireworks and lots of merriment. Bah, humbug!
A la prochaine…
Adrian LeedsEditor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]
P.S. The Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group will be open on Saturday, December 24th, so if you’re here — this is one great thing to do! Visit http://www.parlerparlor.com for more information.
P.P.S. Parler Paris Après Midi was very eventful yesterday! Congratulations to Ronny Rubin on acquiring his long awaited Carte de Séjour (four years!). Read all about it and see the photos by visiting /parlerparis/apresmidi.html, then plan on attending next month.