Listen to the classical concert: Christmas concert of the Radio France Masters in Chartres Cathedral. Audio streaming or video replay, find it in full on France Musique.
The cathedral’s famed celebrations will take place at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois as its congregants and choir carry their faith “beyond the walls.”
Notre Dame kept Christmas going even during two world wars – a beacon of hope amid the bloodshed.
Yet an accidental fire in peacetime finally stopped the Paris cathedral from celebrating Midnight Mass this year, for the first time in over two centuries.
As the lights stay dim in the once-invincible 855-year-old landmark, officials are trying hard to focus on the immediate task of keeping burned out Notre Dame’s spirit alive in exile through service, song, and prayer.
“This is the first time since the French Revolution that there will be no midnight Mass [at Notre Dame],” cathedral rector Patrick Chauvet told The Associated Press.
There was even a Christmas service amid the carnage of World War I, Mr. Chauvet noted, “because the canons were there and the canons had to celebrate somewhere,” referring to the cathedral’s clergy. During World War II, when Paris was under Nazi occupation, “there was no problem.” He said that to his knowledge, it was only closed for Christmas in the period after 1789, when the anti-Catholic French revolutionaries turned the monument into “a temple of reason.”
Christmas-in-exile at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois this year will be a history-making moment.
“We have the opportunity to celebrate the Mass outside the walls, so to speak … but with some indicators that Notre Dame is connected to us,” Mr. Chauvet said.
Those indicators include a wooden liturgical platform that has been constructed in the Saint-Germain church to resemble Notre Dame’s own. A service will be led at midnight on Dec. 24 by Mr. Chauvet to a crowd of faithful, including many who would normally worship in the cathedral, accompanied by song from some of Notre Dame’s now-itinerant choir.
The cathedral’s iconic Gothic sculpture “The Virgin of Paris,” from which some say Notre Dame owes its name, is also on display in the new annex.
The 14th-century masterpiece, which measures around six feet and depicts Mary and baby Jesus, has come to embody the officials’ message of hope following the fire.
Three weeks before Christmas, Paris’s landmark department stores are virtually empty of shoppers as a result of the ongoing transport strike. Shopkeepers are worried for their future if it continues.
December is the most important month for shopkeepers, but Paris shops had a distinct lack of customers for the first Saturday of the month.
Landmark department stores, Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, had few customers on Saturday, December 7. Three Saturdays before Christmas, it was also day three of a transport strike protesting the government’s proposed pension reform.
This strike has paralysed much of Paris and has been termed ‘unlimited’, which means there is no set finish date. There are genuine fears that it could last at least another week; some are even predicting it might continue until Christmas.
There were some cars on Boulevard Haussmann and on other main streets, but the pavements were noticeably thin on pedestrians. There was a distinct absence of crowds in the traditional build-up to Christmas that many shops depend on. Few were stopping to admire the Christmas windows
‘We’re fearing for our survival’: Independent shops at risk
If the big department stores are worrying about their revenues, small independent shops have to worry about their actual survival.
“We’re fearing for our survival,” stated the union representing independent shopkeepers in a letter published in Le Parisien this week, imploring shoppers not to let the transport strike stand in their way and to shop in this month crucial to shopkeepers.
“For more than a year, there have been protests every Saturday by Yellow Vests, lawyers, police officers, nurses… and our customers have turned on their heels.”
“In Paris, Lille, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Rouen, many of us saw our turnover drop. Some of us are drowning in bank charges, struggling to repay loans and have even closed down shops,” the union wrote.
Shops are the hearts of cities, they appealed, but customers are the heart of merchants. Without customers pushing through the door, they will have to shut and cities will die [ . . . ]
Read more at FRANCE 24: ‘Everyone is very worried’: Paris shops hit by ongoing strike
Sunday December 2, 2018, early morning, I found! says Jacques Noyer, former bishop of Amiens. I have found what the Church of France should say about this month-end insurrection we know.
She should announce that we will not celebrate Christmas this year. December 25 will be a day like any other. Nothing in the churches: no office, no nursery, no children. We will return to ordinary Sundays because Advent will not take place.
She will say that our people are not in a state of mind that allows them to celebrate Christmas. The cry of despair that runs through it is incompatible with the mystery of Christmas, with the hope of Advent, with the welcome of a foreign child.
I may be old-fashioned but I remember the Christmas of my childhood. It was not just the end of the month that was difficult. But at Christmas we forgot everything to rejoice in what we had. The most modest families were left with the little they had. In the night, the poor felt rich from the roof over their heads, the improved meal of their plate, the extra log that heated the house and especially the chance to have a dad, a mom, brothers and sisters who loved him. [ . . . ]
Continue at SAINT MERRY: Fêter Noël ?