Windows on Provence
Christmas in Provence
We generally associate Provence with blinding sunshine and the scents and heat of summer. But the run-up to Christmas in December can be a wonderful time to see another side of the region. This is a time when you can see how the centuries old traditions are perpetuated - with festivals and Christmas markets taking place throughout the area. So it can be a wonderful escape from the unremitting gloom of the British winter. And unlike the summer, you won’t be hearing that many foreign tourists!
Christmas is taken very seriously throughout Provence and numerous cities and towns in the south of France hold their Christmas markets with the well-known provençal “santons” or figurines dressed in their traditional costumes and working clothes. As you’d expect, wines and local gastronomic delights are for sale as well as music and street theatre for children... and there’s usually the provençal equivalent of Santa’s grotto.
Avignon and Aix would be my recommendations if you want to go somewhere with “bustle” and where you can combine your Christmas shopping at the markets with visits to the excellent range of boutiques. Or you can simply drink in the historic atmosphere of these two cities. But if you’re looking for something a bit more intimate, La Garde in the Var has a santon festival which runs from 25th November to 24th December in a historic setting in the old village. There are more than 40 different exhibitors – handicrafts, speciality foods and of course “santons”. The event culminates on Christmas Eve when there’s a show and tasting of the 13 desserts which are traditionally eaten at Christmas.