For a bi-cultural couple, celebrating Christmas and other holidays can be liking walking through a cultural minefield. Christmas stockings, decorations and traditional foods can all provoke heated debates. If your spouse is from Switzerland, he may claim that Baby Jesus delivers presents to the good little girls and boys around the world when you know for a fact that it's a jolly man dressed in a red suit. As an American, I find it somewhat hard to believe that a tiny baby could handle the stress of landing a sleigh on a steep Parisian rooftop without bursting into tears. After all, Santa has a hard enough time maneuvering through the city traffic, and he's a robust man accustomed to managing an entire village of elves.
Our family's Christmas tree has long been a cause for contention. I'll never forget the first time that I saw Stéphane running the lights up and down the tree. "What are you doing?" I demanded. Baffled as to why I was asking a question about something that was so obvious, Stéphane replied that he was stringing lights on the tree. "But that's not how you do it. The lights go around the tree. Not up and down," I said. Thinking that perhaps it was a language issue, I made large circular motions with my hands to illustrate how the lights should encompass the tree. From there, the situation disintegrated. It was our first Christmas together, I was far from my family and I wanted everything to be done exactly like it was at home. My home in the United States, not Stéphane's home in Switzerland. I'll spare you the grisly details of the ensuing fight. Suffice it to say that when we get ready to decorate our Christmas tree this year, Stéphane will hand me the lights so that I can string them around the tree. It's a job that he has completely rejected ever since I criticized the aesthetics of Swiss Christmas trees.
|Yoann Nedellec and Sylvio Zago of Jardin d'Edgar|
All of this explains why I was so pleased to talk with Sylvio Zago and Yoann Nedellec, the two men responsible for the magnificent Christmas tree in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral. With a kindly smile on his face, Sylvio told me that the multi-colored lights running up and down the tree represent the different colors and hues of mankind. The golden lights encircling the tree symbolize unity. "With all of the trouble in the world," Sylvio said, "We need more love, tenderness and understanding." Pointing at the star at the top of the 20 meter (65 foot) tree, he declared that it symbolizes all religious beliefs, not only Christianity. When Sylvio and Yoann disappeared into the chilly night, I felt as if I had received an early Christmas gift. One of compassion. Maybe I'll ask Stéphane to string the lights going up and down on our Christmas tree this year. After all, understanding of others begins at home.
Want to see more photos of Paris at Christmastime? I've posted a lot of albums on "Out and About's" Facebook page. You don't need an account to view them.
Galerie Vivienne - decorated for Christmas
All that glitters IS gold at the Four Seasons Hotel George V!
Christmas lights in Paris
La Grande Roue de Paris (The Ferris Wheel of Paris)