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Elysée hosts 600 children

President Hollande and Valérie Trierweiler laid on food and presents in a tradition dating to the 19th century

PRESIDENT Hollande hosted a party for 600 children yesterday, in a tradition dating back more than 120 years.

“Be good and above all, be happy, because everything we’re doing is to make you happy,” Hollande told his young guests, aged four to 10.

The youngsters were a mixture of children of Elysée staff and others, including children selected because they have particular problems such as having disabilities or being orphans or children of prisoners.

The Cabinet was moved out for the day to the Hôtel de Marigny, residence of the president’s foreign guests.

On arrival the children saw the Elysée Christmas tree whose lights first lady Valérie Trierweiler turned on this week and tables set out with cakes and chocolates made by the Elysée chefs.

Mr Hollande and Ms Trierweiler handed them gifts and there was entertainment from hip hop group Pockemon Crew. In the courtyard were people dressed as cartoon and toy characters.

Just before 17.00 the party ended, leaving staff rushing to tidy up before German chancellor Angela Merkel arrived for her first official visit after her re-election.

The children’s Christmas party is known as the Arbre de Nöel de l’Elysée and is held in the Salle des Fêtes. It dates to Sadi Carnot’s presidency in 1889 and has been held ever since, almost always on the Wednesday before Christmas.

Yvonne de Gaulle’s biographer Frédérique Neau-Dufour states the former first lady used to choose the presents and entertainments herself, though Charles had a preference for clowns.

Présidence de la République/C.ALIX

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