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What's on in December

Our pick of where to go and what to see this month

Boconagno Chestnut Fair, Corsica, December 1-3

The Chestnut Fair, or Fiera di a Castagna, was founded in 1982 and is one of the oldest agricultural fairs in Corsica. It gathers more than 150 producers to present their chestnut-related products as well as hazelnuts, olive oil, honey, pastry, wine and beer. Expect plenty of tasting opportunities and cookery displays, plus musical events, and handicrafts for sale.

Japan Touch, Lyon, December 2–3
Art and culture from the land of the rising sun is celebrated in style during this two-day event in Lyon. Held in conjunction with the Salon de l’Asie fair (which showcases Asian food and drink, martial arts, dance and more) at the city’s expo centre, the event will feature ‘Steampunk fashion’, Cosplay, invited manga artists as well as video games. A single ticket gives access to both events.

Salon des Antiquaires, Nîmes, November 30 – December 3
Bargain hunters are invited to this international art and antiques fair, where art lovers and antique collectors can browse and snap up all kinds of masterpieces, from the 16th century to contemporary designs. The event, which takes place at the Parc des Expositions, will feature over 100 stands – and organisers expect up to 5,000 people to attend.

Festival of Light, Lyon, December 7–10

Every year come nightfall, lighting designers, videographers, architects, graphic designers and visual artists, as well as street theatre companies, wow residents and visitors alike with the latest light installations. Its origins come from an old December 8 festival, when residents celebrated the Virgin Mary – whose statue stands on the Fourvière hill, overlooking the city – by placing lamps on their window sills and balconies.

Les Rencontres Trans Musicales, Rennes, December 6–10
If you like to be ahead of the musical curve and discover the ‘next big thing’, and also happen to enjoy dynamic music festivals, head to the 39th edition of Les Rencontres Trans Musicales. What the roster lacks in big household names it makes up for in diversity and freshness, with all styles represented.

Christmas concert, Capitole, Toulouse, December 6–7
Continuing its approach of bringing traditional Christmas carols closer to the great works of the choral repertoire, the Capitol’s Choir this year presents Magnificat by Jean-Sébastien Bach. A chance to spend an evening in the splendid opera house created in 1818 and located within the main administration buildings of the Occitanie capital.
Les Arcs European Film Festival, Alps, December 16-23

The President of the feature films jury for this, the 9th Les Arcs film festival, will be the acclaimed director Andrea Arnold. For the film-loving public there is plenty to enjoy through the week: more than 100 films to watch at various locations around the resort, as well as concerts and DJ sets, virtual reality experiences, a ski cup and many more fun activities.

Bain de Noël, Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, December 17
Taking a dip as Christmas approaches is a popular tradition in resorts all around the French coastline but few places can boast sea temperatures quite so palatable as Nice (16C last year). Even local political royalty, the mayor Christian Estrosi, reveals his pectorals on the plage for the annual plunge – he goes for a swim alongside fancy dress Father and Mother Christmases. All are welcome at the Plage des Bains Militaires near the port, on the third Sunday of December.

Li Hongbo, Paper Museum of Angoulême until December 31
Chinese artist Li Hongbo uses thousands of layers of paper to create busts, bodies and skulls which are seemingly solid, yet flexible. The artist is inspired by traditional Chinese toys made of paper and reproduces everyday objects which can be seen moving, twisting or lying down.
As the artist has never exhibited in France, the Musée du Papier will be the first French cultural establishment to welcome this internationally renowned artist. This exhibition is the flagship event for the Paper Museum in 2017 – see it while you can!

Michel Sardou in concert, Paris,

December 26 – January 3
After a triumphant tour in 2013 and four years of absence, 70-year-old French singer Michel Sardou returned to the stage in 2017 and will be in residency at La Seine Musicale – the stunning new Boulogne-Billancourt venue on Ile Seguin – for seven exceptional performances. He will perform his greatest hits as well as new songs,
to thank his loyal audience of chanson lovers for having followed him for over 50 years.

Santons exhibition

Santons, the small terracotta or ceramic figurines that sit around Christmas trees around France, are a Provence speciality. But such is their universal popularity that one of the biggest collections on display is actually in Gers – Château de Lavardens to be precise. Some 200,000 items are on display in the old castle throughout the festive and New Year period, while in partnership with the chefs of “La Ronde des Mousquetaires”, visitors on Saturdays can taste 13 desserts in homage to the Provençal Christmas tradition.

Shepard Fairey Propoganda Art, Montpellier until January 10
Montpellier’s pierresvives gallery is hosting a free-to enter retrospective of the 28-year career of American contemporary illustrator and street artist Shepard Fairey. While his name may not be too familiar to many outside the US, his most famous work certainly is – Fairey created the Barack Obama “Hope” poster during the 2008 US presidential election. 250 works will be on display. Wednesday and Saturday afternoons only.

Dior, Couturier of dreams, Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris, until January 7
The Musée des Arts Décoratifs celebrates the 70th anniversary of the creation of the House of Christian Dior with a rich and packed exhibition. As well as 300 haute couture dresses designed from 1947 to the present day there are several hundred illustrations, sketches, photographs, letters and manuscripts, plus fashion objects such as hats, jewellery, bags, shoes and perfume bottles.

Gauguin the Alchemist, Grand Palais, Paris, until January 22
This is the first exhibition of its kind to study in depth the remarkable complementarity of the artist’s creations in the fields of painting, sculpture, graphics and decorative arts. It focuses on the modernity of the artist’s creative process (1848-1903), his experimentation, and his ability to constantly push the limits of each medium. Over 200 works on show.

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