Provence Christmas Festival

 Maurice and I spent the week of Christmas in Provence. I had a burning desire to see the Christmas festival in les Baux and missed it every year so I made a determined effort to make it this year and poor Maurice went with me. He is often with me on various adventures although he has learned to pass on small festivals as they usually involve mostly stalls selling things. I used to drag him to meet people that I had met on the Internet and who were in Paris. He went the first couple of times but finally told me he didn’t want to go to any more of them. He is always amazed that I will go meet people in person that I have only corresponded with on the Internet but I have made some great friends that way.

 Anyway, Christmas morning we set off. There was frost on the ground, deep and crisp and even, as the carol says, although it is speaking of snow. We curved through the mountains and finally reached les Baux set in some really lovely white rocky hills. Les Baux itself is on top of a mountain overlooking the valley. There are some Roman ruins up at the top and there was once a castle which was torn down by Richlieu. Les Baux has a fascinating history and was once very powerful. It has died to a tiny village and the only invaders now are tourists.


 A view from the top

 We arrived really early as I thought there would be a huge crowd but as we wound our way up the steep streets to the church it was deserted. The church wasn’t opened yet. This might be because the mistral was blowing and it was seriously cold, well below zero. So we had a cup of hot chocolate and waited until it was time for the festival to start.

 It turned out to be incredibly sweet and very simple. After a mass, the lights were turned off and candles were lit. A ram pulled a rod iron cart covered with white candles around the interior of the church holding a baby lamb-one of the cutest lambs I’ve seen with black circles around its eyes and on its mouth and black tips to its ears and a red bow tied around its neck. Then some Provencal music was played, simply with just a drum and two flutes and men dressed in long brown capes and women in traditional Provencal dresses did a solemn little dance in which each person held a candle. The person at the head of the line going up the aisle towards the altar held the lamb (it had three feet tied to prevent its escape) and bowed to the priest sitting in a chair and holding a baby Jesus. They then each kissed the baby, bowed again, turned and bowed to the person behind them giving them the lamb and so it proceeded through a line of eight people.


There have to be angels at Christmas


Here is the cart with the lamb inside being pulled by the ram


One of the women with the lamb


The shepherd


 When the priest was getting ready to give communion, the head shepherd held the lamb and knelt in front of the altar and the ram’s bell was rung several times.


The ram and his berger outside. I loved the cape

 It was cold and rather a long journey for an early Christmas morning, but I’m glad we made the effort.






8 thoughts on “Provence Christmas Festival

  1. I was reading this with baited breath, hoping there’d be no sacrifice:-)
    Thanks for the lovely story (and to Maurice for letting you drag him there so early!)
    We’ve been to Les Baux on their Market Day and loved every minute of it.

  2. What a wonderful description you’ve made. Wish I was there. I have been to Les Beaux once and loved the place and the area.
    One day I hope to go back to Provence.

  3. Your blog has made me homesick for Paris and France, even though I\’ve never lived there. I\’ve visited several times and have done many of the things on your 101 item list. Two years ago we were fortunate to spend the week before Christmas in Paris and then Christmas in Lamorlaye – it was wonderful.

  4. These events seem so rooted in a time past, a time different from any that I can understand in any way other than imagination. Yet, somehow when I sit in the place where it is happening and I KNOW that something like this has been happening for centuries…something earthier than rituals that I grew up with or grew to know later in life, well, it’s just moving.

    We had an experience similar to what you describe, though not so Christmas specific, in Le Puy at a service a few years back. My husband wrote a description of that…I still get a thrill/jolt/shiver when I read it.

    Thanks for your description…and photos. (Did they say anything about your photo taking? Just curious…)

    Glad you were/are in Provence for Christmas…back to the “real France!!”

    Meilleurs voeux!

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