How to celebrate Christmas in Provence?

There are a variety of traditions around and during Christmas time in the Provence. For example a fully decorated nativity scene, Le Gros Soup or the 13 desserts. In this blog I would like to show you what great traditions the South French have during the Christmas season!

The Provencal nativity scene

In the Netherlands you don’t see them much anymore, the nativity scene. But in France this Christmas tradition is still very much alive and a lot of effort is put into making the most beautiful nativity scene as possible. Moss is picked to serve as a rugged landscape and aluminum foil is removed from the kitchen to turn it into a river. In the South of France they are very creative when it comes to the nativity scene. With the help of the santons (santoun), little saints made from clay, the birth of Jesus is portrayed. Did you know that the santon makers of Aubagne are the most famous? You can buy these traditional santons at the Christmas markets in southern France. A real French product that should certainly not be missed in the Provencal nativity scene.

And on 2 February, according to tradition, the nativity scene is only demolished. A beautiful Christmas tradition making the nativity scene and also a lot of fun to do with your children for example!

Le Gros Souper on the evening of December 24

Le Gros Souper is also a tradition in the Provence. It is a special meal on Christmas Eve, late in the evening and consists of low-fat dishes without meat. But don’t think it’s about 1 course, no, there are certainly about 3 to 9 courses. What they often eat during Le Gros Souper are for example snails, cod and vegetables such as celery. The table must be traditionally covered with 3 white tablecloths, who refer to the holy trinity.

The thirteen desserts

A tradition in which I, as a lover of sweetness, can fully agree: the 13 desserts! It is a reference to Jesus and the 12 apostles. And which desserts it should be exactly is not certain, but you often see the Mendiants: the chocolate cookies with nuts and dried fruit. Dates and black and white nougat are also among the 13 desserts. And in Aix-en-Provence you have a delicious delicacy that can’t be missed: Calissons. A nice tradition the 13 desserts and especially very tasty!

Do you remember a Christmas tradition that is typical of Provence? I’m curious to know!

A bientôt, Juliette

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