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13/12/2007 - par Mark Tungate

So this is Christmas, as John Lennon once sang. Yesterday evening I strolled past the windows of the grands magasins on boulevard Haussmann. I wouldn't have minded getting a glimpse of the windows ; but my view was blocked by the backs of hundreds of children, who were pushing and jostling to press their noses up against the glass. They were aided by their no less enthusiastic parents. It all seemed very familiar. When I was a kid, my parents used to take my sister and me to see the Christmas lights in London. Oxford Street, Regent Street and the big department stores : Liberty, Selfridges and, best of all, Hamleys, which is a legendary toy shop. I loved those chilly December strolls, which are still spangled with magic in my childhood ­memories.

And the great thing is that nothing has changed. Despite the availability of TV, Internet, mobile phones and cheap firearms, young people still enjoy looking at a Christmas shop window. So what's the big deal ? I guess it's a form of experiential marketing. The displays are cute, brilliantly animated and lit with an ­ethereal glow. Above you, thousands of lights sparkle prettily, warming the cold winter night. You're transported into marvellous, more innocent world. And as you're with your parents, it's a comforting, sharing experience. Once upon a time, when it first ­appeared, television must have felt like that. But now we've become so immune to it that a shop window is ­actually more fun.

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