About a week ago, someone must have flipped a switch here in Lille and it suddenly became Christmas. Mind you, we’re several months behind the UK – there, some TV reality star switched on the Christmas lights in August, heralding the season to be jolly.
Last weekend, the Christmas market – le marché de Noël – opened on Place Rihour in the centre of Lille. And cranes lifted the big wheel into place.
What with that and the plummeting temperatures, it’s starting to feel a lot like Christmas.
This is now my third time of experiencing the Christmas market here: once as a visitor and twice as a local. I think it gets better each year.
“Nothing says Christmas quite like an oversized stuffed toy on a cotton wool and paper mâché hillside”
This year there are more stalls than before and organisers have created two entrances – presumably, to alleviate the crowding of previous years. The layout seems different too.
We have friends coming this weekend and next, so I’m guessing I’ll be quite familiar with what’s on offer there soon enough.
But this year, I reckon Lille’s Christmas market has a serious rival: Jardiland.
If you don’t know this French garden centre chain, you have no idea what you’re missing. Each centre is on a generous plot so there’s plenty of scope for the window-dressing team to make the Galeries Lafayette displays seem half-hearted.
Our nearest branch has gone all-out for Christmas. Among the many displays are Christmas villages and fire-retardant tree mountains.
There’s also a Christmas waterfall and a sleigh ride – both for animals. Nothing says Christmas quite like an oversized stuffed toy on a cotton wool and paper mâché hillside.
In short, it’s really tacky.
Perhaps British and French Christmases aren’t so different after all…?