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Champagne, oysters...and thousands of police, French toast 2016 under tight security
New Year's celebrations in Paris and across Europe are under tight security because of the heightened terror threat. The French capital abandoned its traditional firework display on the famous Champs Elysées boulevard, calling in no fewer than 11,000 police to patrol the festivities. Despite this, many revellers are determined to ring in the New Year with a bang.
It's the biggest celebration of the year, but in France, as elsewhere in Europe, many revellers are having to rein in their festivities to combat the terror threat.
In and around the French capital, an unprecedented 11,000 police will be deployed to guarantee the safety of Parisians and tourists. That's an extra 2,000 compared to last year. And across the country, security operations will be manned by a whopping 60,000 officers!
"This has never been seen before," France's Defence minister Jean Yves Le Drian said on Thursday. "We're taking every precaution necessary to ensure that the passage of the New Year goes well, but we must remain extremely vigilant", he added.
This vigilance nonetheless, is taking its toll on French security forces. The head of France's second police union Frederic Lagache, on Wednesday stipulated that his colleages were "at the end of their tether."
Security forces have been working around the clock since the January 11 Charlie Hebdo attacks, and more recently in the wake of the November 13 terror attacks, which forced the government to impose tough emergency measures.
Overwhelmed and exhausted, many officers will no doubt be hoping that things will ease up in 2016. In the mean time, the government has offered some light entertainment at least to those who covered the recent Paris attacks, with a free concert at Bercy theatre hall.
The show must go on
Elsewhere, party dwellers will also be rewarded, after finally being allowed to gather on the Champs Elysées. Last year, they were around 60,000 to pace up and down the famous boulevard to watch the fireworks. This year, there won't be any fancy lights - the terror threat has put somewhat of a dampener on things - but dwellers will get to watch a retrospective video of this year's highlights, and it won't be all about terrorism.
Many French papers today were quick to pick out some of the positive events of 2015: such as the French's new love of classical music, with record numbers turning up to watch the Philharmonic Orchestra play; the nation's solid fibre of solidarity, with more and more people donating to charity, despite the financial crisis. And last but not least, die-hard linguists will be pleased to know that there are now more French speakers in the world.
All good reasons to celebrate, which is what many French men and women plan to do tonight. And to help them, fish mongers are slaving away to serve up platters of oysters, scallops, and lobster to ensure their menus have a distinctive flavour.
Meanwhile, wine merchants are also gearing up to offer clients their best bottles of bubbly. Champagne is the traditional favourite in France, but other white wines are not to be dismissed.
For all pre-dinners or cocktail parties, many experts advise against sweet-tasting wines, lest one wants to commit a serious faux-pas! Hardly the best way to start 2016...