Goodness knows the winter holidays seem to come earlier and earlier every year. Impatient decorators trim trees and light displays well before the once-respected twelve (or even twenty-five) days of Christmas. But nothing seems to dampen the exciting anticipation of the holidays once December actually hits.
In France and many other European countries, December 6th is traditionally the day of Saint Nicholas — for the French, Saint Nicolas — a Christian saint venerated for the many miracles attributed to him and for his reputation as a beneficent gift-giver. His image as a kindly bestower of gifts lives on in our modern vision of Santa Claus (in French, Père Noël). This weekend, several French winter traditions kick off in the spirit of Saint Nicolas and the holiday season.
Salon SAVEURS des Plaisirs Gourmands  (Dec 4 — Dec 7) in Paris. The twenty-third installment of this gourmet food fair promises luxury for the senses — chocolates, wines, breads, and honey entice visitors alongside impressive dishes like foie gras and sardines with goat cheese. Featuring 300 artisans from all over France, seven region-specific booths (including participants from Italy and Japan!), as well as the expertise of four gourmet restaurants, this December’s Salon Saveurs theme of regional cuisine should not be missed.
- Price: €8 regular price, €4 reduced price (student and other eligible patrons)
- Location: Espace Champerret, Porte de Champerret — 75017 Paris. Halls A, B and C.
- Friday, December 4th: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- Saturday December 5th and Sunday December 6th: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Monday December 7th: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Cantem Encara: Voix Sacrées du Monde  (Dec 4 — Dec 6) in Toulouse. The subtitle translates to “Sacred Voices of the World” and indeed, the spectrum of cultures and music presented by La Mounède in Toulouse will satisfy your craving for holiday spirit in a new and delightful way. Songs from Cuba and Perpignan, a city in the south of France, near the border of Spain, plus traditional Ethiopian dance, are sure to bring joy to any humbug-harboring heart.
- Price: €10 regular price, €5 reduced price
- Friday, December 4th: Cuban music from the group Clares Luces, at the Eglise Saint-Vincent de Paul (63 Chemin de Heridia 31500 Toulouse), 9 p.m.
- Saturday, December 5th: Sacred Gypsy songs from Perpignan by the group Tekameli, at the Centre Evangélique des Pradettes (42 Chemin des Pradettes, 31100 Toulouse), 9 p.m.
- Sunday, December 6th: Ethiopian dance and music by Eténèsh Wassié at 4 p.m. and the Cuban music of Clares Luces at 5 p.m., both at the Eglise de la Daurade (Quai de la Daurade, 31000 Toulouse).
Chocolate Festival  (Dec 6) in Santenay. Another delicious tradition to enjoy, this time in the Bourgogne region, a sweet sojourn to Santenay this Sunday offers creative varieties of many-flavored chocolates for children and adults alike. Hardly the only chocolate festival to be had this winter, the gathering of artisans in Santenay promises chocolate truffles, orange-flavored pralines, and delectable desserts galore.
- 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Salle des Fêtes, 21590 Santenay.
- Phone : 03 80 20 63 15
Fête des Lumières  (Dec 5 – Dec 8) in Lyon. A longstanding tradition, the Festival of Lights in Lyon commemorates the 1852 inauguration of a new religious statue as the symbol of the Lyon church. That year, the celebration was postponed several times, resulting in the mounting excitement of eager townspeople, who positively overwhelmed the city with dazzling light décor. See Lyon dominate Paris in the fight for the title of City of Lights — and bring an old lightbulb! For every (non-filament) bulb brought for recycling, you’ll get a free ride on the Ferris wheel. There are a lot more than just lights at this sparkling spectacle, so be sure to check out the installments listed on the city’s English website .
Details: Locations and times vary ; events and installations throughout Lyon’s arrondissements. See website for details.