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ENERGY

Will France have Christmas light displays this year?

The message in France this winter is all about turning out the lights, as the country aims to cut its energy use by 10 percent to get through the winter without Russian gas - so what does this mean for traditional Christmas lights displays and light festivals?

Will France have Christmas light displays this year?
Christmas lights on the Champs-Elysee in Paris. Photo by Stefano RELLANDINI / AFP

The French government’s sobriété enérgetique (energy-saving) plan for winter has plenty to say about lights – people are advised to turn off the light in any room they’re not using, while local authorities will be switching off early the lighting on monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and even street lights in some areas.

Even the famously opulent palace of Versailles – which gives rise to the phrase C’est pas Versailles ici (meaning, turn the lights off, we’re not millionaires) – will turn down its lighting this winter.

READ ALSO All the ways that France’s ‘energy saving’ plan could impact your life

So what does this mean for the popular Christmas light displays that most French towns put on in late November and December? Or Lyon’s famous Festival of Lights? 

Paris 

Perhaps the best-known Christmas lights display is on the Champs-Elysée – 4km of lights with 20,000 bulbs.

This week, organisers confirmed that the traditional display will go ahead, but with two important modifications; the lights will be switched off at 11.45pm each night – two hours and 15 minutes earlier than previous years – and the display will be up for six weeks instead of the usual seven.

The head of Blachère Illuminations, which creates the Champs-Elysée display – says that thanks to LED lightbulbs, the display actually uses surprisingly little electricity, costing €50-€60 a day in power bills. 

The display will be switched on on Sunday, November 20th by actor Tahar Rahim.

Reduced displays

In most big cities, local authorities have adopted similar plans- festive lights displays will happen, but in a pared-down form.

For a large city, Christmas lights represent only around 0.2 percent of their annual electricity usage – but while savings may be minimal, many mayors have spoken of wanting to set an example through small gestures.

Strasbourg – the town that bills itself ‘France’s capital of Christmas’ is going ahead with its display, but with 10-20 percent fewer bulbs than usual. The display will also end on January 8th – one week earlier than normal – and lights will be turned off at 11pm instead of midnight.

Bordeaux – the deputy mayor of Bordeaux said: “We plan to keep the same illuminations as last year but reduce the lighting time.” In practice this means beginning on December 9th, two weeks later than usual, and turning the lights off between 1am and 7am.

Toulouse – the light display will be two weeks shorter than usual – turning on one week later in December and off one week earlier in January.

Caen – the Normandy town will also be turning off lights early, at 11pm instead of midnight.

Cancellations

But some towns have announced that they will cancel the displays altogether. Municipalities that have announced a total cancellation include Morbihan and Quimper in Brittany, Béthune in Pas-de-Calais and Boussy-Saint-Antoine in Essonne. 

One of the displays at the 2018 festival of light in Lyon. Photo by JEAN-PHILIPPE KSIAZEK / AFP

Lyon festival

But undoubtedly the most beautiful light display in France is in Lyon, when the whole town is given over the the Fête des Lumières (festival of lights) in early December.

This year’s festival – running from Thursday, December 8th to Sunday, December 11th, will go ahead, local authorities have confirmed, with around 30 sites illuminated in astonishing displays of light and colour, often accompanied by music.

City authorities, confirming that the festival will go ahead, said that the 30 displays over five nights represent “a drop in the ocean” of the town’s annual energy use, while the festival brings in thousands of visitors.

Deputy mayor Sylvain Godinot, said: “The impact of the Festival of Lights on the city of Lyon’s energy consumption is absolutely marginal, which is what allows us to maintain it.

“These are installations that have evolved a lot technologically with lighting designed with a lot of LEDs that ultimately consume very little energy.”

The city’s usual Christmas lights will also go ahead, but will be switched on one week later and switched off one week earlier.

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STRIKES

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Unions representing cabin crew on several airlines have threatened to take strike action over the Christmas holidays in a series of increasingly bitter pay disputes.

French airline staff threaten strikes over Christmas

Cabin crew for Air France have already outlined dates for possible strike days, while unions representing staff at Easyjet and Ryanair are threatening “massive disruption” unless their demands are met.

The SNPNC-FO union, which represents cabin crew working in France, is calling for pay increases for its members working for budget airline Easyjet, warning that if no agreement is reached there will be a “very high risk” of walk-outs over Christmas.

Strikes, prices and services – what you need to know about travel over Christmas 2022

No exact dates have been proposed yet, but the union says that the current pay offer does not cover the rising cost of living, adding “the management will be responsible for the disruptions suffered by our customers”.

Cabin crew at Air France have filed a provisional strike notice from December 22nd to January 2nd, although whether staff actually walk out depends on how the pay negotiations go.

“This notice should serve as a warning to our management,” explains a union leaflet. “If this warning is not heeded, only a strong mobilisation will be able to tip the balance.”

So far the only confirmed strike action is at Air Antilles and Air Guyane – which mostly run flights between France and the Caribbean and French Guyana. Their staff will be walking out between December 17th and December 22nd, unless there is a breakthrough in pay negotiations. 

Ryanair crew working in Belgium have also threatened strike action over Christmas, although so far their French colleagues have not revealed any strike plans. 

Things look better for rail and ferry travel, with no strikes currently planned – although anyone with a trip to the UK planned should be aware of strike days planned by British rail staff over the Christmas and New Year period.

French airport ground staff and air traffic controllers won themselves a pay rise after strike action over the summer holidays. 

You can find all the latest strike information for France on our strikes page HERE.

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