Marché de Niort – Opening Night
Les marchés de Noël, or Christmas markets, are an important part of Christmas in France, and in many other European countries as well. In France, the markets generally open in the beginning of December and run until Christmas, although some are only open certain days.
Many towns and cities of all sizes host Christmas markets. One of the biggest markets is held in Strasbourg, which is also the longest-running Christmas market; it has been held annually since about 1570. The biggest is in île-de-France.
Even in my little city of Niort there is a Christmas market. It opened on December 7 (which is also coincidentally La Noche de las Velitas in Colombia) with a parade in the town and it was the first day they turned on all of the Christmas lights that illuminate the town. There are also temporary booths set up that sell crafts, hot wine, and crepes, among other treats.
Today I also visited the Christmas market in a town called Coulon, about twenty minutes from Niort. I bought some delicious chocolates and looked at the different arts and crafts. Here are some more photos of the markets in Niort and Coulon:
Parade in Niort
Chocolate taste test in Coulon
Lights in Niort
**Every night for the nine nights before Christmas Colombians celebrate novenas, so I will be writing a blog post every day about Colombian Christmas traditions. Feliz Navidad!**
In Colombia, Christmas decorations, especially lights, are quite popular. From the end of November on, stores become filled with garlands, strands of lights, and ornaments for people to decorate their homes with. Colombians also buy artificial Christmas trees, as real pine trees are hard to come by.
December 7, La Noche de Las Velitas, is the official day to put up Christmas lights and decorations. Medellin and Bogotá especially go crazy with Christmas lights. This year Medellin had 16 million lights around the city, and Bogotá had 7 million. Both of the cities give tours so you can see all of the lights. Some people also put up lights in and around their homes, and many apartment buildings also decorate the outside.
Almost all Colombian homes will have a Christmas tree and a nativity scene, or pesebre. The nativity scene is especially important because during the novenas friends and families gather around it to sing villancicos and say prayers. However, Christmas trees have not always been a typical tradition in Colombian; this custom came over from the States. Also, people used to have live Christmas trees, but this is now illegal so as not to harm the environment.
Here is a video of the lights in Medellin: