Santon festival in Cadière d'Azur

Advent festivals .

In Provence, the tradition-driven Christmas period ('Calendal') stretches from the beginning of December to the beginning of February. A variety of minor and important ceremonies are celebrated in the family home or with the whole village: Christmas wheat, Saint Lucy, the 'Gros Soupa' and Candlemas.
Fêtes calendales

Festivities before Christmas .

Advent

The first Advent Sunday
The beginning of the Christmas period. Advent lasts for the period that includes the 4 Sundays before Christmas. It is a time of penitence and the beginning of a period of fasting and reflection to prepare for Christmas. Advent used to be announced in the street, with pipes and tambourines.

 

4th December: Feast Day of Saint Barbara

On this day, wheat is sown in three ‘seitouns’ (saucers), to represent the Trinity. Watered generously and placed near the hearth, the wheat should be thick and green by Christmas, when it is placed on the table for the ‘Gros Soupa’.

 

13th December: Feast Day of Saint Lucy

‘On the Feast Day of Saint Lucy, winter’s grip starts to loosen’…to accompany the lengthening days, the shop windows, balconies and windows are lit with candles and lanterns.

 

Chandeleur

Festivities after Christmas .

From Saint Sylvester to Candlemas

31st December: the Feast Day of Saint Sylvester

People stay up until midnight in order to ring in the New Year and kiss under the mistletoe. The following day, the 1st January, nobody goes to work, and absolutely nobody does the dishes! Children often go to wish their parents and close friends a Happy New Year and receive New Year gifts.

 

6th January: Epiphanie

The Three Wise Men, travelling to see the baby Jesus arrive, and pipes and tambourines announce their arrival to the village.

To celebrate, we ‘tire les rois’, meaning we eat a brioche crown in their honour, containing candied fruit and a ‘fève’. The youngest sits under the table and chooses the portions given to each guest. The ‘king’ has to bring a cake to the next meal.

 

2nd February: Candlemas

This marks the end of the Christmas period, the nativity scene is taken down and the santons are put away.