The people of Provence started making their own crches at home during the French revolution, when the government closed Catholic churches and forbade the public display of statues and crche scenes. At the Provencal Christmas markets and fairs one finds specialities of the region: local olives, goat cheese, bread, and wine, fine liqueurs, candied fruit, charcuterie.
The last Word Noël Provençal Alice Alech C hristmas in Provence is a spec- tacular affair. Lights and deco- rations go up as early as the end of November for the saision des fêtes. In December, vendors at the outdoor markets bring out their Christmas specials, while musicians and artists start practicing for the Midnight Mass theater. the real festivities get started on December 4, St. Barbe’s Day, the dishes commonly served is l’aigo boulido (provençal for “boiled when grains of wheat and lentils are carefully placed in a saucer water”), a simple garlic and herb soup. the other dishes will usually near the fireplace, to be watered and tended every day until include cod, lots of vegetables, cheese, and bread. Christmas eve. everyone wants the seedlings to thrive, since the at around eleven o’clock, the feast stops temporarily so that sprouts will tell what the next harvest will be like: if they’re tall, families can attend midnight Mass. Many village churches still green, and straight by Christmas eve, the coming harvest will be observe Pastoral, a performance of musical theater in the provençal a good one. language; villagers dressed in provençal costumes sing and act It’s impossible to imagine Christmas in provence without the out their own version of the Nativity story. In Pastrage, another crèches that are displayed in homes, churches, and town halls. provençal custom, shepherds follow musicians up to the altar and the santons that populate the crèches faithfully represent village offer a live lamb to the priest (the lamb is not harmed). life. Santons—a provençal word that means “little saints”—are at the end of midnight Mass everyone wishes each other Joyeux handmade figurines used in crèches and nativity plays. they are Noël and returns home for the Les Treize desserts. Why thirteen? made of clay, wood, or pastry and are carefully dressed or painted. the number is said to represent Jesus and the twelve apostles at at first, the only figures were the infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the the Last Supper. the desserts come from the different regions of Magi, and the shepherds. today there are santons of bakers, provence and include fruits and nuts, white and bla
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