Our Locations in France

Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Commercialization of Christmas - French Style

Christmas Market booths in the central square of Angers

Bronwyn and Joanie at the Christmas Market
Although the Christmas season in France does not officially start until the Feast of St. Nicholas (December 6), the stores started putting out Christmas items and we started receiving Christmas themed junk mail in late November. We've been watching city workers erect booths for the Christmas market and installing decorations in the streets since mid-November, but the lights didn't get turned on and the Christmas music didn't start playing in the streets until December 6. At that point, American stores had already recorded their busiest week of Christmas shopping.

The French seem to be trying hard to commercialize Christmas, but thankfully they haven't quite mastered the art of commercializing Christmas yet. Angers has the second largest Christmas market in France and to be sure it has a carnival-like atmosphere complete with overpriced toys, carnival food and a merry-go-round. However, whether limited by employment law or tradition, the brick and mortar retailers seem to be relatively restrained.

Bronwyn in front of the largest department store
in Angers, which is shuttered during the busiest parts of the
Christmas market even though the Christmas market
is centered directly in front of  the department store.
The city of  draws a lot of people downtown at night to see the many Christmas booths. What is surprising is that the brick and mortar stores do not fully take advantage of the large crowds visiting the Christmas market. Most stores have maintained their normal schedule, which means that they are closed  in the evenings and on Sunday afternoons when the sidewalks in front of the stores are packed with Christmas shoppers. Can you imagine American department stores staying closed while large holiday crowds shopped in front of the store? However, there are signs that commercialism is gaining ground, we did see an announcement today that some stores were going to be open (for limited hours) on the two Sundays prior to Christmas ... but you can forget about midnight madness sales and 24-hour shopping.

Just because Christmas is not fully commercialized does not mean that Christmas traditions are sacred. As exhibit A in support of my case, I offer an advertisement for laser hair removal, which suggests: "for Christmas, do not forget your little Christmas tree". And this is not even the most risqué window display. I must confess that the window displays in France are much more likely to catch your eye than in the United States.

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