There’s no way to be a Scrooge about Christmas in Paris—after all, festivities last from mid-November to mid-January. But since New Year’s Eve (known here as la Saint-Sylvestre) is not family only, it’s especially nice for the city’s visitors. Marking the run-up to each year’s end is a public sport, one that seems to put the whole city in a better mood. If you’re actually in Paris, take advantage of this! Just closing all encounters with a bonne année or bonnes fêtes à vous will provide a shot of instant gratification. Not to mention the feasts and events, the light shows installed in 125 streets, the special ice sculptures on the Champs Elysées—or the magical circus machine at CentQuatre.
Also be sure not to miss the taste of la Saint-Sylvestre. Try some fresh oysters with champagne and silky foie gras.* They’re on sale everywhere from street stalls to supermarkets. Even in a hotel room, all they need is fresh bread and clementines.
You might notice something else on sale at this season: racks and racks of cards reading “Bonne Année” and “Meilleurs Voeux.” Sending one’s voeux (loosely “best wishes”) happens all year; the phrase can accompany notes of felicitation or sympathy. But, come January, les voeux become a national sport. This is because the French prefer sending New Year’s wishes to posting Christmas cards. They’re too busy before Noel and, besides, les voeux provide an annual showcase of talent and taste.
This gives you a great excuse to prowl papeteries. In English, these would be known as stationery stores. Given Parisian preferences, however, they are a lot more interesting. An inventive papeterie will stock anything from leather desk goods to office supplies, with plenty of small gift items such as key rings, stickers, diaries, pens and smartphone cases. All, however, will have different vehicles for New Year’s voeux. Although it’s trendy and “eco” to send one’s voeux via email (or create special animations to be posted online), even the most techno-crazed Parisians crack when it comes to family. Their older relatives just expect a written combination of good wishes and personal news, with a some kind of expressive flourish. The upshot? An annual bonanza for the city’s graphic designers, stationers—and papeteries.
It’s a tradition not so different to the Anglo-Saxon “Xmas newsletter.” However, the French have a separate formula for each target, with a different tone and a different degree of formality. If you’re curious, just turn to the Internet. It abounds with samples: voeux intended for employees to send to their supervisors, voeux for your landlord or your coiffeur—even voeux for clients of a business that’s about to close. Often, a site charges around several euros per template.
Voeux offered for the New Year can also accomplish things. You could praise your sister’s parenting skills, for instance, or your new colleague’s professionalism. You can firm up a business connection or reconnect with old friends. It’s such a handy and charming ritual—why not try it? All you’ll need is time for thought, stamps and some gorgeous stationery. Every arrondissement in Paris has its favorite papeteries (just sit back and Google!). Here are a few we’ve always liked.
4, rue Grégoire de Tours, in the 6th Arrondissement. 01 43 54 62 65.
Small and friendly with many small gifts. Carries foreign magazines and newspapers. Stationery as well as seasonal cards.
6, rue du pont Louis Philippe, in the 4th. 01 48 04 09 00.
One of the city’s most famous troves of fine cards, papers, desk and writing equipment; this minimal masterpiece of a shop celebrated its 30th anniversary last year. On a street devoted to papeterie.
Le Facteur N’est Pas Passé (The Postman Hasn’t Been)
26, rue de Richelieu, in the 1st. 01 42 61 11 22.
Gift shop with a lovely range of artisan cards. Every year, artist Agnès Aldebert debuts a limited-edition seasonal collection.
27, rue Laffitte, in the 9th. 01 47 70 38 83.
Near 20, rue Laffitte, where a certain Monsieur Moline opened his Galerie Moline in 1893 (it was later Galeries Laffitte), renting it to the likes of Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec and Picasso to show their work. The basement here houses a classic papeterie. Beautiful papers on which to express your finest wishes as well as diaries, pen sets, etc.
Gilbert Jeune Papeterie
Place St.-Michel, in the 6th.
A student favorite because of location and prices. Mainstream cards and many kinds of papers. Plus the green-and-black marbled “portfolios” meant to carry art but also handy for packing.
10, rue du pont Louis Philippe, in the 4th. 01 42 74 57 68.
A wonderful shop specializing in artisan papers from Italy, marbled papers and calligraphy. Elegant cut-paper cards that look like spun lace. The owner, Eric de Tugny, is a well-known calligrapher.
30, rue Dauphine, in the 6th. 01 43 29 62 51.
A magical, feminine St.-Germain shop filled with Paris-centered items. Fabulous small gift finds, stationery and artist’s cards by names such as Fifi Mandirac.
* Editor’s note: Find foie gras even if you are not in Paris in our GG2P store.
Tags: Agnès Aldebert, art, Buci News, Calligrane, culture, Cynthia Rose, Eric de Tugny, France, Galeries Laffitte, Gilbert Jeune, holidays, Le Facteur N'est Pas Passé, meilleurs voeux, Melodies Graphiques, Moeti, New Year's, papeteries, Paris, Shopping, travel