From a distance the grouped forms suggest the figures of a Christmas nativity scene but this is a throughly secular tableau and the only personalities are the fir trees and the passers by.

 

 

Churches have their cribs and mangers in France as elsewhere but state institutions are careful to avoid any symbols that might suggest historic links to the Christian church. There’s no aversion to public holidays on days of religious significance though, including Ascension Day and Assumption as well as Christmas and Epiphany.  I’m sure someone must have suggested adding extra days for the feast days of other major world religions.

 

christmas trees place dauphine

 

Meanwhile the city council’s festive fir trees stand around in companionable huddles (like these in Place Dauphine) bringing the ancient magic of ever green trees into a grey, winter landscape.  Of course here the leafless trees are living and the green ones, rootless, are destined to be transformed into wood chip mulch in the New Year.  Try explaining that symbolism to a visitor from Mars.

 

 

I’m glad Christmas trees and winter lights are regarded as harmlessly secular, despite their ancient pagan roots.  Green branches and festive lights (whether flaming torches or LED) in the dark days of winter speak directly to something fundamentally human.  Unlike our ancient ancestors we don’t doubt  that light and warmth will come back in the spring but it’s good to be reminded.  Happy Christmas!