The tradition of the cristhmas crib in Provence

The cristhmas crib in Provence and santons

The Provencal Tradition places the birth of Jesus not in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, but in a small Provencal village in the last century.

Of course, we find the biblical characters forming the nativity scene: the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, to whom are added, on December 24 at midnight, the Child Jesus and the shepherds with their flocks, on the day of Epiphany, the kings Magi.

To the biblical subjects are added all the characteristic characters of the life of a village that we find in the Maurel Pastoral, a show that is played in our region in theaters and neighborhood houses between December 25 and February 2 .

These characters all have a story:

  • The blind man who found his son in front of the manger.
  • The gypsy who stole the child from the blind and who is resting before the Nativity.
  • The trio: The couple Margarido and Jourdan with their friend Roustido.
  • The grinder who drinks too much and who is alone with his dog.
  • Bartoumiou and Pistachie, the two brothers collected by the innkeeper ...


The Provençaux, attached to their customs, create a decor and install their santons with love between December 4 and December 24.
The crib will be removed on Candlemas Day on February 2nd.

Typical Provencal characters include:

  • The Provençal aioli, the Miller, the Garlic Traders ...
  • Fishermen, Fishmonger, Fishmonger, Marinier ...
  • The Lavender Woman, the Pottery Merchant, the Picker and the Olive Picker, the Goose Farmer, the Provençale with its basket of olives ...
  • The Shepherds and Shepherds: "Coup de Mistral ©", "Renaude", Young Shepherd, Shepherd and her lambs, Shepherd with his lamb and his dog,Shepherd sleeping in the pasture.
  • The Baker, the Baker, the Builder, the Cook, the Navetier.
  • Young couples: Arlésiennes and Tambourinaires.
  • Couples of old: Grasset and Grassette, Couple with umbrella, Old people sitting on a bench, the Bearer and the Carrier of wood ...

And many more ... all in 19th century costume that can accompany more contemporary models.
A nursery is built over several generations. It grows from year to year with santons or elements of decorations that we have chosen.
The realization of the nursery in Provence in each home is a tradition that continues. It is essential to the Christmas party in Provence.

Extract from the conferences of Mireille Fouque

The cristhmas crib in Provençal traditions

Our hills are full of thyme and rosemary. There are, of course, a lot of stones, but also foam. All these natural elements allow us to build the manger, that is to say, to place the decor where the elements will be added.

Everyone will go get these materials on the first Sunday of Advent.

The whole family opens the box in which sleep little santons to prepare or add santons.

Then we put everything in place, except the Nativity that will be deposited in the barn on December 24 at midnight, before the "Big Supper" and, finally, the wizards who will arrive on Epiphany.

Each character has his life that resembles that of the inhabitants in the small villages. But this time, everything is happening at home; it makes us think of this or that parent, neighbor or friend because for us, Provençaux, the legend provencal tells the birth of Jesus not in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, but in a small village in the 19th century.

It is enough to read the Pastoral of Maurel to know this history in detail. It is played in theaters, in neighborhood houses, between December 25 and February 2, the day of the candlemas. The Provençaux, attached to their customs, are the nursery every year and go to see the Pastoral at least once every two or three years to recite in the heart what they like to hear again.

The Fouque House perpetuates the tradition by creating each year new santons following the same method used for two centuries since its creation.

Once completed, the santon will be sold to go "live his life" in the family that will have chosen, installed in the crib on December 4 to Candlemas (February 2). Then, he will take place with the oldest in his cardboard box where he will sleep until "the year that comes" (next year) to start again, from year to year, the same rites, the same customs, from generation to generation.

The tradition of the cristhmas crib in Provence


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