In France, all the major cities and towns, and many smaller places too, have special events in December leading up to Christmas. Some, like Lyon's Festival of Light, are world famous; others are local events that you only discover when you are actually in the town. If you are holidaying in France over the Christmas period, check with the local tourist office in advance.
For four days around December 8th, people flock from all over Europe to see Lyon transformed by its spectacular Festival of Light. In 1852 the construction of a statue of the Virgin Mary, designed to stand on the hill of Fourvière, was stopped by bad weather and the inauguration was postponed from its initial date of September 8th. Three months later, December 10th was threatened with storms and tempests, but as evening approached, the clouds dispersed and the people of Lyon came out to celebrate, carrying lanterns in the streets and decorating their houses with lights.
The Fêtes des Lumières has since become a fantastic annual, 4-day Festival, always celebrated around December 8th. Every year a new team creates the fabulous lights which cover many of the city's most beautiful buildings. It’s a wonderful excuse for a winter festival and there are plenty of other events to produce a festival for everyone to enjoy.
The city is completely full for those 4 days and you'll find it difficult to get a hotel on those dates. But if you are near Lyon, then try to get into the city to see the illuminations.
For three days in mid December, Epernay in champagne celebrates with three spectacular days of events, drinks and food along the famous Avenue de Champagne. There are extraordinary installations like Spiderman; imaginative light shows; son et lumiere; street theater groups; music and fireworks. Each day has different offerings but there is one constant. Many of the major Champagne houses along the Avenue de Champagne are open to the public, with Champagne bars, illuminations and tastings.
In 2011, the dates are December 9th to 11th. On Friday December 9th, there is a continuous changing programme of street events. On Saturday the famous chefs of the region gather around La Halle Saint-Thibault to demonstrate (with tastings as well) just why they are so famous. And on Sunday, in addition to all the regular events, there is a huge parade of vintage and veteran cars, open to anybody who has such a vehicle.
During the whole of December, the Living Horse Museum (Musée Vivant du Cheval®) housed in the grand stables at the Chateau of Chantilly, just outside Paris, puts on a show for all the family, from December 1st to January 2nd, 2012 and takes you on a magical journey with the Horse and the Child in a grand, hour-long show.
Living Horse Museum (Musée Vivant du Cheval®)
Chateau de Chantilly
Tel.:00 33 (0)3 44 27 31 80
Website on the Show
Since the Middle Ages, the Fêtes de Saint Nicolas(Saint Nicolas Festivals) have filled the streets of Nancy on the first weekend of December. It’s become a family affair, and celebrates St Nicolas Day on December 6th when according to the ather gruesome legend, three children got lost…were seized by an evil butcher…and finally rescued by St Nicolas. Every town and small village has its own celebrations on December 6th, with gingerbread and small gifts given to all the children.
Nancy, the capital of the Dukes of Lorraine, takes the festival seriously, with a weekend of events attended by thousands of people. This year it takes place on December 3th and 4th. From 2p.m. on Saturday, the streets are full of actors and musicians announcing the arrival of Saint Nicolas. From 8pm, Stanislas Square is the center of the action with a show of lights, fireworks, sound and music and spectacles. Get there by 7p.m. for a good spot.
On Sunday, December 5th, there’s a parade of floats to music from 4p.m. to 7p.m. then another fabulous firework display from 7p.m. at the Palais du Gouvernement. There are also special events for children, shows and workshops.
More information on NancyNancy Tourist Office
Tel.: 00 33 (0)3 83 35 22 41
Disneyland Park in Paris is full of excited children of all ages who flock here for Disney's annual Christmas spectacular. From November 7th, 2011 to January 8th, 2012, the park is alive with snowflakes, a huge Christmas tree above Town Square, a transformed Sleeping Beauty Castle, Santa Claus in his village, a new Princess Rapunzel and of course Mickey and his friends putting on quite a show.
You’ll have to book in advance for December 31st for the fabulous New Year’s Eve Party.