The story behind Paris canceling its biggest Christmas market

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Paris authorities have officially canceled the city's biggest Christmas market despite it attracting millions of visitors each year. Here is the story behind the surprising decision.

The Christmas market attracted millions of visitors each year

The Christmas market attracted millions of visitors each year
© Volha Kavalenkava/123RF

For years now one of the highlights of spending the festive season in the City of Lights was a trip to the capital's biggest Christmas market. Situated along the Champs-Elysees, the market, comprised of hundreds of stalls, attracted millions of visitors each year. And yet despite its wild popularity it seems, Paris City Hall has officially cancelled this year's market, leaving Parisians and tourists to look elsewhere for the festive souvenirs and cups of hot chocolate.

Unsurprisingly the question on everyone's lips has been why Paris officials have chosen to cancel such a popular event, especially since the city has been facing an uphill struggle to increase its tourist numbers after suffering a series of devastating terrorist attacks in recent years. At first glance the answer to this question is fairly straightforward - according to City Hall the Champs-Elysees market is simply not good enough for Paris. However, if we were to look a bit closer at the decision we would see that things are not quite that simple.

Enter 77-year-old Marcel Campion; known as the "king of the fairground" he has been in charge of the market for the last nine years. For months now Campion has been embroiled in a bitter feud with City Hall after Paris City Council voted not to renew their contract with him. In retaliation Campion and his fairground workers have staged a protest earlier this month blocking several of the main roads leading into the city causing traffic chaos.

Campion's protest caused chaos on roads outside of Paris

The roots of Campion's feud with City Hall can be traced back to last November, when he was ordered to take down the Ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde. Another mainstay of the capital's winter season, the wheel has been erected in the famous square each year since 2001. The reasons for that particular decision are a little less clear cut. Officially Campion was accused by City Hall of occupying the site illegally. Meanwhile Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo has stated that she believes the wheel should not be at Place de la Concorde as it looks out of place in such an historic location. However, there are those who suggest the reasons for City Hall falling out with Campion and refusing to do business with his company Fêtes et Loisirs are all together more serious. For years there have been rumors circulating that Fêtes et Loisirs does not always operate on the right side of the law. These rumors took on a much more official tone earlier this year when the company was placed under formal investigation for amongst other things money laundering and connections with organized crime. It should be noted that Campion has fiercely denied the accusations, stating "I am not a gangster."

The wheel has been erected every year since 2001

The wheel has been erected every year since 2001
© Pavel Kavalenkau/123RF

Yet despite the allegations and the formal investigation Paris officials stand behind their claim that the market has been cancelled simply because it is not good enough. Jean-François Martins, who is in charge of tourism at City Hall, has stated: "You can't make a profit out of Paris without quality products. That's what we've been telling Campion for two years and we haven't seen any efforts on his part, hence the vote this summer." Meanwhile a spokesperson for City Hall was quoted in Le Parisien saying: "Paris wants to host a Christmas market on the Champs-Elysées, but we want to take the time to reflect on the best solution for Parisians and tourists." Adding that: "a cornet of churros for ?15 is not really the most beautiful showcase of Parisian gastronomy."

Despite this Campion's workers have reportedly been setting up stalls on the Champs Elysees over the last few days, further aggravating the situation. Campion meanwhile has stated that he plans to appeal the decision on November 14th.

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Editorial Team
Posted on 12/11/2017
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