I don't think the Champs-Élysées has ever been more beautiful than this Christmas. There are blue-white lights in the trees and at night, the lights move and it looks as if light is dripping down the branches.
Almost everyone has been sick in my house over Christmas, including me. There must be something going around Paris because a lot of people I know are sick, too.
Paris was full of excited foreigners here for the holidays, although not many Americans because of the high euro, I noticed. We had some visitors from Venice-- some of them got sick, too.
Remember, it is still Christmas till Twelfth Night, or Epiphany-- January 6th.
Our Venetian friends told us that in the Veneto countryside, on the mainland near Venice, a very ancient tradition persists of huge bonfires everywhere on the eve of Epiphany-- the night of Panevin*. The figure of an old woman, made of sticks, is burned on top of the bonfire. She is la Befana, the witch who brings children presents in their stockings on Twelfth Night. (Venetian children often get presents three times during the Christmas season-- once on St. Nicholas' Day, the 6th December, once on Christmas, and once when the Befana comes.)
All these customs, though, have echos of ancient pagan ceremonies. The bonfires make you shiver when you think of how they must have originally burned a real person.
"And think how nervous people must have been the first time they substituted a stick figure," said Andrea. "They must have worried the gods would strike them down."
* In Louisiana there is a still-continuing tradition of bonfires all along the Mississippi River levees on Christmas Eve.