Wednesday, December 7, 2011

December in the Auvergne – everything is illuminated

The Latvian Christmas carol “Dedziniet gaišu guni, laidiet Dievu istabā: Dieviņš brauca par kalniņu sudrabotu mētelīti,” counsels everyone to keep warmth and brightness in your home and to let God in, for God is coming over the hills in a silver coat.

Warmth and brightness came to our apartment this weekend in the form of our friends from Chatenet. On Saturday they helped Roberts find and bring home our very first French Christmas tree, and by the evening it was softly glowing with Christmas lights. But there were more lights in Clermont-Ferrand to be seen, as it was also the kick-off weekend of Illuminations and the Christmas festivities here in Clermont-Ferrand.

After a morning spent resting and recuperating from the flu, I was physically able to join my family and our guests on an outing to downtown. As we emerged from the apartment a light drizzle was falling, but at that precise minute all the Christmas lights decorating our street were turned on for the first time, and this encouraged us to continue on to Place de Jaude. The Christmas tree there was not yet lit but the plaza was full of people that had come out to enjoy the shopping and lights on this dreary Saturday. Rue Nestor Perret was the site for the annual fête du miel with a dozen local honey vendors set up displaying their wares, and the smell of roasted chestnuts was in the air, as vendors sold everything from churros to crêpes from small mobile carts.

Although the drizzle had stopped, the wind was still blowing pretty fiercely, and exactly at the moment as I started wondering if I had misunderstood the time that the lighting of the tree would take place (for there were very few people milling around the tree as we were), the Christmas tree was illuminated! With beautifully flowing icicle lights interspersed with the smaller lights, the wind was moving the branches, causing a wavelike effect. Along with the tree dozens of smaller light displays all over Jaude were also turned on, and the giant Ferris Wheel was simply icing on the cake.

We continued north to the Marché de Noël, set up in Place de la Victoire next to the cathedral. Although the Christmas market was filled with people and all the vendors were open for business, the lights there had not yet been turned on. As we sipped on hot wine and enjoyed the atmosphere came a wonderful surprise; the overhead canopy of Christmas lights came alive, the roving musicians struck up a nice Christmas melody, and the whole marché came even more alive than it had been!

We didn’t linger much longer, after Roberts and Max’s parents enjoyed a quick snack of oysters at the oyster vendor’s booth it was time to head back home to enjoy the lights of our own tree. But that is how Clermont-Ferrand came to be illuminated for Christmas this year, and we were there to see it happen.


  1. Great pictures! We went on Sunday afternoon and it was sunny and beautiful. This is the best time of year to be in Clermont.

  2. So festive. Beautiful. I love that "OH" moment when the lights come alive.

  3. OMG such amazing Christmassy pictures! Really gets me into the festive season. Off for a spot of mulled wine and to sing some christmas carols


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