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Culture

Making Merry in France Over Christmas

Paris is known as the city of lights. And during the Christmas season, it definitely lives up to its name. Famous boulevards try to outdo each other with elaborate displays of Christmas lights.

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Joyeux Noel

They are especially stunning on the Rue Royal, the Avenue Montaigne and the Champs-Elysées. Here, each of the 300 trees lining the street is illuminated. Every night, some 70,000 lights sparkle on Champs-Elysées alone.

The seasonal sights in Paris also include specially decorated window displays at the city's main department stores: Galeries Lafayette, Printemps and Samaritaine. Most of these stay up until the end of December or early January.

Churches

Nativity scenes, or 'Crêches' are on display at a number of Paris churches. The most spectacular one is at Notre Dame cathedral.

And while you're there: don't miss "Le Mystère de Noël", an opera-like multi-media performance. It traces the story of Christmas using biblical texts and masterpieces of European art. Shows begin every hour from ten in the morning until seven at night.

Marchés

Special Christmas markets, the so-called 'Marchés' - are held on numerous squares in the city. Among them are the Place de la Bourse, the Place de la Nation and the area in front of the Centre Pompidou.

Decorated Trees

Paris is synonymous with fashion. So it's only natural that some of the city's most talented fashion designers have tried themselves at decorating Christmas trees this holiday season. Some 80 of these trees will be on display from December 20 until January 2 at the Espace Pierre Cardin, 1-3. Avenue Gabriel, Paris 8.

Restaurants

Many people in France go out for Christmas dinner. So the little bistros and restaurants vye for customers with their special holiday meals. Christmas dinner consists of five or six courses and can take hours.

If you're planning on enjoying a traditional French Christmas meal, the thing to order is "Dinde aux marrons", turkey with chestnuts. Other popular favorites include oysters and paté and the traditional Christmas dessert "Buche de Noël", a sweet creme cake in the shape of a tree-trunk.

Christmas dinner in France is called "Reveillon". Traditionally, people would sit down to these meals after church. But since many French people don't attend church any more, they now often start feasting earlier in the day.

Good food is an integral part of the holidays for the French. So much so, that some foreigners say French people never really leave the dinner table during the festive season.

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