Secular Christmas: a primer on les soldes d’hiver


In Russia, Christmas comes in January, due to the Eastern Orthodox Julian calendar.  In France, Christmas comes in January because of the secular commerce code.  I am talking of course, about les soldes, the twice-yearly retail sales which, unlike in other countries, are strictly regulated in France.

To be honest since 2009 the government has become more lax about sales, allowing periods of “floating sales” that last two weeks at any given period in the year.  Nevertheless, in the heart of many French people, les soldes is something of a secular holiday.  On the first morning of the sale period (the second Wednesday in January and then the last Wednesday in June) people line up in front of shops, waiting to get their hands on freshly marked-down fashion.  People from the provinces come to Paris to scour the prestigious grands magasins, students cut their Wednesday classes, and office workers take long lunches.

Depending on how you look at it, the winter sales can feel like a marvelous gift, or some kind of bait-and-switch: after dutifully paying retail not two weeks prior for Christmas presents, the same merch is being joyfully price-slashed.  If you’re looking for a particular item, go now (les soldes started yesterday and will go until February 12th) as most of the good stuff gets taken the first weekend, but if you’re looking for deals wait another week or so when retailers start rolling back the prices further.

Of course, nowadays you can get discounted clothing, furniture, and gourmet foods all year long thanks to sites that give you access to private sales (see: vente-privée, Bazar Chic, and AnnaSand).  Plus, more and more brands allow you to sign up for their newsletters and often they provide special discounts to the people on their mailing lists. 

If after the gift-buying orgy of the holidays you still have the desire and the funds for more shopping—then by God, that’s a Christmas miracle!

See you back here on June 26th!

For more information on all-things shopping, see our Shopping section, or check out Sam’s shopping guide.


About Author


I came to Paris in the fall of 2006 as a study abroad student. Since then, I have had many adventures in babysitting, grad schooling, interning, girlfriending, breaking up, haling taxis and working a 9-to-5. For every day that Paris drives me nuts-- because seriously, this city WILL get on your nerves sometimes-- there are days when I feel overjoyed and privileged to be living in such a beautiful town.

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