Wed 27 Dec 2006
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
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.