It’s December and people everywhere are getting ready for Christmas. After weeks of blue skies and gentle warm days it’s raining where I live in California and temperatures have plummeted. The puddles are splattered with the last remnants of autumn and the mornings are frosty with low lying mists hanging over the hills. Pumpkins have been cast aside replaced with Christmas sparkle, draped across roof tops and porches sometimes quite dramatically, beckoning in the Festive season.
And I know, in Lourmarin preparations for Christmas, le Fête Noël are also underway. I’m not going to be there but can imagine it, the bustle and excitement, the decorating, the cooking, shops bursting with enticement and my little street festooned with twinkling fairy lights.
In the larger European cities wooden chalets straight from a German Christmas story are now peppered throughout the streets. Each weekend tiny villages play host to Christmas markets, near Lourmarin these Marchés de Noël are held in local schools, town halls and wineries. My favorite is in Aix-en-Provence where the Cours Mirabeau will have become lined with festive wooden chalets.
Calissons d’Aix are sweet treets made from an ancestral recipe; a mixture of finely ground almonds, melon de Provence and candied orange peel, on a wafer bed covered with a royal icing setting, délicieux!
A charming part of Christmas in Provence, Santons are hand-painted terracotta nativity scene figurines. They were first created during the French Revolution by an artisan from Marseilles, Jean-Louis Lagnel (1761-1822). A Provencal crib scene would traditionally have about 55 Santons, depicting different characters from the region.
The 13 deserts of Christmas
The Provencal 13 desserts of Christmas are an age old custom eaten after Gros Souper, the equivalent of Christmas dinner, thought to have represented Jesus and the 12 apostles.
The 13 deserts normally include a Fougasse (an olive oil flatbread), a Pompe à l’huile (olive oil brioche), a platter of fresh fruit, a fig stuffed with walnuts, dates and white nougat. Not all are home made and different regions offer their own variations; but everywhere has the Bûche de Noël!
Shopping in Lourmarin
If I were in Lourmarin here are some of the shops I would be browsing for my Christmas gifts
La Maison FRANC ~16 Rue Henri de Savornin, Lourmarin
What could be more special than a handmade gift interwoven with beautiful ribbon exuding the evocative fragrance of Provence, a Lavender wand (Coeur de Lavande) or Lavender boule for your tree ? La Maison Franc has some of the very finest and they ship all over the world.
KOT for linen clothing & gifts ~ rue de la Juiverie, Lourmarin
Rose de Bagatelle for clothing & gifts ~ 8 rue du Temple, Lourmarin
Mizso for handmade jewelry ~ 1 rue du Temple, Lourmarin
Souleo de Provence for pottery ~ 14 rue Henri de Savornin, Lourmarin. Their Lourmarin shop opened this spring but was previously in the Lourmarin market. Also available online from USA, albeit for a tad bit more!
A book gift about Provence
If like me you love all things French, treat yourself or your friends to a gift of these wonderful little books, ‘One Sip at a Time’ & ‘Are we French Yet’. Written by fellow franophile Keith-Van-Sickle who lives near me in California, (read my review here) they are full of wit and charm and ‘Are we French Yet’ is also available in an audio edition. Keith is offering a free copy up until Wednesday 11th December 2019. Click here and you might get lucky!
What are the Festive customs and traditions where you live? Are you expecting a white Christmas? Maybe my fairy tale village will be sprinkled with snow completing the magic of this special time of year.
Happy Christmas wherever you are!