Christmas in Paris: when the capital shines to its brightest
During Christmas season, the city of lights truly lives up to its name. The magic of Christmas takes hold of the capital a few weeks before the holidays and until mid of January with its monuments and streets bearing their festive glittery costumes and giving the bystander the pleasure of an unforgettable sight. Of course, Paris’ famous boulevard Haussmann is definitely a sight to behold as it transforms into an incredible light show. Note that the illuminations are designed to consume the minimum possible amount of energy.
Originally, the Galeries Lafayette started illuminating their facade in 1912 for specific events. But it wasn’t until the 20s / 30s that it became recurring and spectacular. Today, the store’s Christmas decorations have spread inside out and, along with the façade illumination, the store exhibits epic Christmas trees and work-of-art window displays.
As of 1945, the Galeries Lafayette will systematically set a theme and get talented designers and creators such as Raymond Peynet, Albert Dubout, Jean Effel, Pierre Pothier and many others, to unleash their imagination and talent to produce breathtaking installations to shine in the store and in the windows. In November, Galeries Lafayette unveils the new theme for the Christmas season to come and invites an artist to come and launch the illuminations.
The Galeries Lafayette’s Christmas tree tradition
The Christmas celebrations started in 1920 with the annual internal Christmas party. The employees were invited, with their children, to come and enjoy an on-stage show and admire the Christmas tree, both of which were placed just in front of the stately staircase, under the beautiful dome.
From there on, the Galeries Lafayette would dress up for the holiday season, looking dazzling inside out. And what once was an intimate Christmas party became one of the most visited spots in Paris. Every year, one can discover an ever so exuberant sparkling tree hanging from the glittering Art Nouveau dome. Going back in time:
- Christmas 1976: a giant aluminum tree reveals the Galeries Lafayette’s boldness. A 23-meters high structure, weighing 1,6 tons and bearing 400 square meter of aluminum, is parading in the great hall of the boulevard Haussmann’s store! Made out of 160 silvers baubles, the Christmas tree required 2 full months of work from the “avions René Cousinet” company. Mr. Meyer’s idea, carried out by Mr. Adnet and Mr. Gauchet, breaks with the tradition of displaying a Christmas tree on the façade. 1976 is also the first year the fir is placed at the center of the great hall, the Majorelle staircase having been removed two years before. The tradition of hanging the tree under the dome is born.
- Christmas 1997: “British Christmas”. Christmas is British and under the dome, one can discover a twenty meter high tree with strange cherubs and multicolored bows created by Vivienne Westwood.
- Christmas 2012: “Ball of the Century” with Louis Vuitton. The 100th anniversary of the glass dome is celebrated with a huge Swarovski Christmas tree created by Hilton McConnico. The 21-meters high tree is decorated with 120 brilliant-cut ornaments and topped with a 9-meters chandelier made of more than 5 000 smaller Swarovski crystals. 100 stones and a 5-meters wide star on its top, shimmer and light up the Galeries Lafayette’s dome. It is the biggest tree in Europe.
- Christmas 2014: “A Monstrous Christmas” with Jerry Hall. Monsters took over the store that year and turned the huge Christmas tree upside down! A bewildering but enchanting sight! The tree’s decorations were all inspired by the centenary Art Nouveau dome.
The incredible work-of-art of the Galeries Lafayette’s window displays
Nowadays, during Christmas, Galeries Lafayette has become a mandatory stop and is visited, every year, by more than ten million visitors eager to discover the Christmas windows! The planning and production of the displays take nearly a year from start to store with dozens of artisans working on bringing the conceptual sketches to life. It starts with choosing the theme and the story then of course, the different craftspeople working on the project: model makers, designers, decorators, carpenters, electricians, window dresser and the incredible puppet master! The huge momentum goes all the way to England where the sceneries are created. The windows, along with the Christmas tree, follow the theme set for the Christmas season to come and unveil treasures of imagination for the enjoyment of all, children and adults alike. Animated figures, imaginary scenes, magical settings, fantastic and enchanting worlds, the windows transform into outside theatre shows, so popular that it creates traffic on the boulevard Haussmann!
Once again, going back in time:
- Christmas 1945 : Jean Effel, « L’assemblée des animaux célèbres » 1946, Raymond Peynet, « L’orchestre céleste »
- 1955, Raymond Peynet, « La sérénade à la fée »
- 1957: “Les chevaux de bois” (the wooden horses)
- 1967, Jean Adnet “Fontainebleau”
- 1970, R. Doboujinsky et Claudie Gastine, “La vie privée et publique des animaux, d’après Granville”
- 1996, Alfredo Arias “Le Noël du siècle”
- 2008, Noël en grand
- Christmas 2009: Christmas Gourmand. Want to know more about “gourmet and maison”?
The latest Christmas ‘at Galeries Lafayette include:
- 2016: “An Amazing Arctic Christmas” with Audrey Tautou. This theme tells the story of a white bear’s family that is threatened by ice meltdown. Decorations, tree and windows featured remarkable innovative design with a hand-cut paper Christmas tree, bears and other arctic animals created by French artist, Lorenzo Papace.
- 2017: “Spectacular Spectacular” with Beth Ditto. The Galeries Lafayette were transformed into an enormous circus with a giant colorful Christmas tree surrounded by a host of inflatable, glittery candies, balloons and donuts dancing up and down the tree. The tree itself was created entirely of inflatables.
- 2018: The “Dream Factory” with Jessica Chastain. Kids between 5 and 11 years old were invited to draw their Christmas heroes. The favorite drawings were transformed into stuffed toys that were set in the iconic window displays. A 16 meters high and 9-meters long footbridge, the “Glasswalk“, was built on the 3rd floor for visitors to enjoy a unique view of the Christmas tree and the famous Art Deco glass dome.
Dive head first into the magic of Christmas when shopping at the Galeries Lafayette
Let’s not forget that above all, Galeries Lafayette is a department store and Christmas magic is all over the store! Shelves overflow with gift ideas turning Christmas shopping into a celebration.
Galeries Lafayette’s delicatessen
To make your Christmas Eve unforgettable, Galeries Lafayette has combined both worlds of Art de la Table and Fine food at Galeries Lafayette Gourmet getting typical French Christmas delicacies, both sweet and savory, on your most beautifully set table. And to add the essential finishing touch to your perfect Christmas dinner, taste and pick some of the best wine from Duclot La Cave.
Christmas shopping is Christmas for all at Galeries Lafayette
While wandering the seven floors of the store, one can discover shops-within-the-shop: worldwide fashion, accessories, beauty and home design. Christmas whimsy continues, and not only because of the special decorations that pop up around every corner, but thanks to the many hidden treasures one can find such as special gift ideas and Galeries Lafayette’s exclusive products. Christmas shopping experience will transform into one of discovery and fun. The French way of life is to be celebrated by all. Galeries Lafayette offers dedicated space for everyone with the Men’s store, the kid’s store, the women’s store but also a specific gift shop! !
To read more about the story of the Galeries Lafayette, visit our “Tale of Galeries Lafayette”.