Paris Holiday Rituals: Lights, cookies, action!

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Meringue, rue de Rennes
Meringue dreams on rue de Rennes. Photos by Theadora Brack

By Theadora Brack in Paris—

Oh, the weather in Paris has been frightful, but the city is still delightful. So crank up Tino Rossi’s classic “Petit Papa Nöel” on the gramophone, or pull on your boots and bravely hot step it outside. For your wandering pleasure, I’ve created a personal list of my favorite holiday rituals and fancy rites!


Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Inside Galeries Lafayette

I typically kick off my holiday season with a jaunt to the lights and “vitrines de Noël” (holiday windows) on Boulevard Haussmann. This year, Galeries Lafayette’s windows were outfitted by Italian artist (and master of the spectacle) Valerio Festi to celebrate the resonating, magical beauty of musicals like Hairspray, Le Soldat Rose, Les Rockettes and Mamma Mia.

Meanwhile at nearby Printemps (102 Rue de Provence), royals and marionettes romp and frolic in fantastical and giddy “Nöel au Chateau” tableaux by Lanvin’s artistic director, Alber Elbaz. A “B.F.F. of the Cheapos,” we have Monsieur Elbaz to thank for introducing an affordable Lanvin line to H&M this year. Ooh-Ra-Ra!

Also, let’s not forget the smaller shops! Often restaurants, pâtisseries, boutiques, and even pharmacies hire artists to create holiday murals. Shopping districts in every arrondissement are also gussied up with streetlights.


During the holidays I carry at least one meringue cookie in my trench coat pocket or bag at all times. Sweet and crunchy, it’s the ultimate instant sugar rush, making the perfect portable snack. Yes, Goldilocks, size does matter, so go with a medium-sized cookie because the smaller ones are sometimes on the dry side, and the larger ones are occasionally too soft.

Clementines Paris

Clémentines à feuilles at Lafayette Gourmet

Also, while in nibble-mode, sample other types of cookies like jelly-filled powdered lunettes, rich and crispy florentines, and fleshy iconic macarons. Looking for a big cookie? Ask for a sandy and oh-so-buttery “sablé”!


During the colder months, clémentines à feuilles (i.e., with green leaves still attached to show how fresh they are) reign at the produce stands in Paris. You’ll also be tempted by big, bright pyramids of citrons (lemons), cédrats (citrons), and pamplemousses (grapefruit), not to mention tangerines, limes, mandarines, and oranges.

Keep your eyes peeled for les figues violette (purple figs), poires (pears), pommes (apples), raisins (grapes) and caramboliers (star fish). Remember, the produce merchant is your friend and advisor, so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations!

Chopin at the Musée de la Vie Romantique, Paris

Chopin at the Musée de la Vie Romantique

Museum Houses

Musée de la Vie Romantique
16 Rue Chaptal (Métro Blanche)

In the quiet and quaint “Nouvelle Athènes” area around Métro Saint-George, you’ll find the Musée de la Vie Romantique. Formerly the home of painter Ary Scheffer, it now showcases works from the Romantic Movement in art and literature. Back in the day, this is where George Sand, Chopin, Delaxroix, Lizt, and Rossini would gather! Scheffer’s paintings are displayed the second floor, while his spunky neighbor George Sand’s art, personal artifacts (and her bling, too!) occupy the first floor. Pack a hankie because electric candlelight and piped-in Chopin gently lends it a truly romantic ambiance.

Hooked on houses? Check out still more amazing digs:

Musée du Gustave Moreau on 14 rue de La Rochefoucauld (Métro Trinité)

Jacquemart-Andre Museum on 158 Boulevard Haussmann (Métro Miromesnil)

Maison de Victor Hugo at 6 place des Vosges (Metro: Chemin-Vert or Saint-Paul)

Le Musée de la Poupée at Impasse Berthaud (Métro Rambuteau) The Doll Museum’s exhibition “Le Retour du Père Nöel” closes January 9.

Cinema 28, Paris

Cinema 28


The sun sets early in winter, so why not cozy up with an old flick at the cinema? After seeing “Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid,” followed by Audrey Hepburn’s “Love in the Afternoon” one cold and wet New Year’s Day, this became my personal holiday tradition.

My favorite cinema is Studio 28 in Abbesses. Founded in 1928, it became world’s first avant-garde art theater after Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel premiered one of the first surrealist films there: “L’Age d’Or.” Do look up. Jean Cocteau designed the theater chandeliers!

Also showing oldie-but-goodie American classics (which, by the way, the locals love) are the Action Ecoles at 23 rue des Ecoles (Métro Maubert-Mutualité or Jussieu), the Action Christine on 4 rue Christine (Métro Odéon or Saint-Michel), and the Grand Action at 5 rue des Ecoles (Métro Cardinal-Lemoine or Jussieu)—just to name a few.

Happy Holidays, Cheapos!

About the author

Theadora Brack

About the author: Theadora Brack is a writer working in Paris. Her fiction has appeared in more than 30 literary publications, including 3AM International, The Smoking Poet, Beloit Fiction Journal, Mid-American Review, and the Haight-Ashbury Literary Journal.

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