Kids in France love this time of year.
Not because of the legal - and free - glucose-induced high they could get from trick-or-treating (Halloween isn't really celebrated here). And not because of the school vacation that extends into early November.
No, what really gets the adrenaline pumping, and sets off weeks of feverish list making, letter writing...and some not-so-subtle hinting...is the day the Christmas toy catalogues arrive in the mail.
They come for adults, too - high-fashion glossy mags selling the 'sexy' holiday essentials, from designer handbags and evening gowns to stiletto heels and lingerie. Everything to put the nutmeg in your Noël.
In our family, kids are told that when they reach 10, the gift-giving burden shifts from St. Nick to the parents. We find it a gentle way for them to ease into the "truths" about Christmas.
Last year, when our oldest was nine years old, and, theoretically, still under the auspices of Santa, a gigantic - and ridiculously expensive - box of Leggos caught his attention as he was flipping through his catalogue.
His younger brother noticed he was hesitating to put it on his list. So he took him aside and with the candor of an inside trader who knows how to work the system, whispered:
"You should go for it now. Mom and dad will never get if for you next year. It's too expensive. And besides, Santa's loaded."