Dec 232014
 

As we celebrate the holidays, Mr. TWS and I send our Christmas greetings and thanks for following us on our travels in 2014. This year, we spent time in France for a great start to the Christmas season.

We began in Paris…

"Santa Claus on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris"

Just Santa and me on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris

We began with a few days in Paris and then took the high-speed TGV train south to Provence (just over three hours from Paris to Marseille) where we discovered the region’s Christmas traditions, culture and history, as well as its warm and welcoming people. There will be much more to come about this trip on TWS and other websites, but here’s a glimpse of the  sights, lights, and traditions of the season that we enjoyed in Provence.

Christmas traditions in Provence

In each city and village we visited, we were delighted by the religious, cultural, and creative displays and activities reflecting some of the key Provençal Christmas traditions that include:

  • Santons, distinctive hand-crafted clay figurines originally created for crèche representations, but expanded to include figures that illustrate local life in Provence.
  • Nativity scenes, displayed in churches and other locations in the the communities featuring the Baby Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Joseph, and other biblical and secular santons. (The end of Christmas festivities is marked on February 2nd when the nativity scenes are taken down.)
  • 13 Desserts, a selection of crystallized fruit and other special sweets served after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.
  • Wheat, sprouted from seeds planted on the Feast of Saint Barbara (December 4th) to foretell prospects of prosperity for the coming year.
  • Christmas markets, a relatively recent tradition in many towns of Provence, showcase vendors selling local products, wares, food and wine.

You’ll see these and other sights that captured our attention in the photos below.

Our Christmas cards to you from …

Marseille

"Santons market and fair and whimsical Santas in Marseille, France"

Marseille’s Faire aux Santons and whimsical climbing Santas

Aix-en-Provence

"Toasting to the holidays in Aix-en-Provence: Christmas market, traditional wheat sprouts, and olive bread"

Toasting to the holidays in Aix-en-Provence: Christmas market, wheat sprouts, and gibassier (olive oil bread)

Avignon

"Christmas in Avignon: from religious nativity scenes to traditional desserts and holiday lights"

Christmas in Avignon: from religious nativity scenes to traditional desserts and holiday lights

Carpentras

"Hand-crafted santons, crystallized fruit at Jouvaud Patisserie, festive street decorations, and the traditional Christmas nativity scene in Carpentras"

Carpentras: Hand-crafted santons, crystallized fruit, festive street decorations, and a small section of a huge nativity scene that attracts visitors from all over the region and beyond

Salon-de-Provence

"Christmas decorations, nativity scene and traditional pastries in Salon-de-Provence, France"

Christmas decorations, nativity scene and seasonal pastries in Salon-de-Provence

Arles

"Santon creations of artist Liliane Guiomar and Henri Vezolles that are currently on display at the Salon International des Santonniers in Arles, France"

Santon creations of artists Liliane Guiomar and Henri Vezolles on display at the Salon International des Santonniers in Arles

Aubagne

"Aubagne: Christmas market, ice rink, nativity scene and display of traditional Christmas Eve meal"

Aubagne: Christmas market, ice rink, nativity scene and display of the Christmas Eve meal, the “Gros Souper” (grand supper),

Cassis

"Christmas cheer and traditions in Cassis, France"

Christmas cheer and traditions in Cassis, France

Joyeux Noël!

"A taste of champagne at the Christmas market in Avignon"

A taste of champagne at the Christmas market in Avignon

Merci beaucoup to Comité Régional de Tourisme Provence-Alpes-Côte d’AzurVaucluse Tourisme en Provence, and Bouches-du-Rhône Tourisme for making our Christmas in Provence tour possible.

I’m contributing this post to Nancie McKinnon’s Budget Traveler’s Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday. Enjoy other links to photos and stories on her site, too.

  25 Responses to “Christmas Cards from Provence: Joyeux Noel!”

  1. Beautiful pictures! Wishing you a wonderful holiday~

  2. And a very merry Christmas to you too. Lovely photos by the way, I’m now feeling very festive.

  3. LOVE all the photos! Thanks for sharing such beautiful holiday greetings with us. I really need to experience Christmas in Europe one of these years… Those markets!

  4. We’ve visited Provence in both the summer and autumn. Clearly, we need to give it a go in winter too. Beautiful photos, Catherine.

  5. Looks beautifully festive! Hope you have a lovely Christmas.

  6. Wow, what a great place to spend your time to get Christmas started! These are all wonderful photos and it’s always nice to see that smile of your’s. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and Mr TWS, Cathy!! 🙂

  7. A lovely way to kick off your holiday – Merry Christmas to you and Mr. TWS. Cheers ~

  8. I love the climbing Santas of Marseille and the holiday lights of Avignon, both places I have dreamt of visiting.

  9. You are making me want to hop on a plane and head to Provence. I’ve always mentally imagined Provence in the spring and summer, but the holiday time looks so pretty and festive, too. I cannot wait to read more about your trip.

  10. Nothing better to get you in the mood for Christmas. Great photos and what a wonderful trip it appears you two had! Happy New Year and Happy Travels in 2015~
    Jackie

  11. A very Merry Christmas to you too, Cathy! Best wishes for 2015!!

  12. What a way to spend the holidays. Avignon looks particularly lovely.

  13. Looks like a lovely Christmas! I am missing Europe right now. It seems wherever I am not, I miss 🙂

  14. Provence for pre-Christmas looks absolutely fabulous. I’m a bit late to the party, so I’ll wish you a happy new year instead 🙂

  15. What a lovely way to start the holiday season. Your photos are gorgeous. The shot of the Santas rappelling from the windows made me laugh! Happy New Year! My first 2 weeks in Thailand have been super busy, so I am slow in getting around. As always, thanks for linking up to Travel Photo Thursday.

  16. Looks like a wonderful holiday! Loving all the pictures! Thanks for sharing!

  17. What a lovely time to visit Provence! I was captivated by the santons on our first trip to France on our honeymoon many years ago and enjoyed rediscovering them with our daughters when we returned to Provence a few years ago.

    Happy New Year! I hope 2015 is off to a splendid start for you!!

  18. […]   Christmas Cards from Provence: Joyeux Noel! […]

  19. thankyou for taking us on this Christmassy tour of France. We were in France in the summer 9 years ago, and I long to go back again. Wishing you happy travels for 2015. Thank you for stopping by my blog this week. It was lovely to “meet” you.

  20. […] items including food, flowers, clothing and jewelry. This Sunday was the final day of the annual Christmas market held on the square, and our final day of experiencing the Christmas traditions of Provence. The […]

  21. […] After lunch, we walked further along the port to the Place du Général de Gaulle, where a large ferris wheel towered over the Christmas market filled with seasonal items as well as textiles, crafts, food and drink. It was also the location of the Foire aux Santons, the annual fair showcasing santon (“little saint”) figurines ,  a key element of Provencal Christmas traditions. […]

  22. […] visit coincided with the Christmas markets, so we also visited the vendors who were selling their seasonal Provençal  products. We […]

  23. […] I really love seeing Sweeney so happy there. Last December, we visited for three days prior to our Christmas tour in Provence. Someday, we will need to figure a way to spend a month — or […]

  24. […] of Provence” and one of the steepest routes of the Tour de France). In addition to the Christmas festivities and traditions that we focused on during our December visit, there is much to see and do in Carpentras — […]

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