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Cruising in France: Christmas Traditions in Provence | Cruising in France

Cruising in France

...Travel blog about river and canal cruise vacations on luxury barges and riverboats

 

Santons - A Unique Provencal Christmas Tradition

Written by Carolyn on October 31, 2009
Summary:

One nice thing about barge cruising in France is learning about the local traditions. Since Christmas is coming up soon, it made me think of santons …

One nice thing about barge cruising in France is learning about the local traditions. Since Christmas is coming up soon, it made me think of santons.

During the French Revolution, when the churches were closed and not allowed to have Nativity scenes, an artisan from Marseilles started the tradition of making santons (”little saints”) for ordinary people to  have  Nativity scenes at home. 

These small figurines represent not only the traditional figures of Joseph, Mary, the baby Jesus, etc. but also various personnages typical in a French village.  For example, we have one of a woman carrying lavender and another of a man playing pétanque (a form of boules similar to bocce ball). Some of the figurines have the costumes painted on them, while others are dressed in clothes like dolls.

A santon fair was started in Marseilles in 1803, and now there are fairs and festivals all over Provence in November and December. Although this isn’t cruising season, if you get a chance to go to Provence at that time of year, be sure to check out these fairs. (You can buy santons all year round in gift shops.)

The largest Nativity Scene in the World” (Guinness Book of World Records) is in Grignan. It covers more than 10,000 square feet and contains more than 80 houses, built of traditional materials (stone, wood, cement) and covered with 60,000 handmade tiles. Many expert santon-makers have contributed more than 1,000 santons of animals and people.

To read more about santons and see pictures of some of them, go to   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santon_(figurine)

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