The season officially begins on December 4th with the feast of St. Barbe and continues on through to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Years Eve (St. Sylvestre), ending on the 6th January with the Epiphany or the Feast of the Three Kings. The Feast of St. Barbe – this day signals the beginning of the Season, which starts by growing wheat and lentils on small dishes covered with wet cotton wool. By Christmas Eve, the sprouts decorated with ribbons, will provide the “grass” for the Nativity scene. The grains symbolize a good harvest and favorable weather for the coming year. As legend goes… if the sprouts are straight and tall and green … the coming year will be prosperous
Mistletoe, well known in the U.S. – was never, never used as a part of the Christmas decorations…… It Was Considered Bad Luck
But … when I was visiting Provence last Christmas, I noticed lots of bunches of Mistletoe at markets right through the area … so, Mistletoe is now a part of Christmas in Provence.
From St. Barbe to Christmas Eve, the people of Provence shop and cook for the “Fetes” – they decorate the “Sapin de Noel” (Christmas Tree), visit the many Christmas Markets which take place in many towns – usually made up of stalls resembling log cabins, and are full of local arts and crafts as well as traditional fare.
After the traditional Christmas Eve Gros Super, Midnight Mass is very well attended, and many village Churches observe the “Pastorale” – a theatrical representation of the Nativity, sung and spoken by people of the village dressed in traditional Provencal costume. Versions are based on the village history and their own Christmas traditions. Midnight Mass with the living crèche and Pastorale is celebrated at Seguret. Christmas Day masses are also celebrated in Sablet at the Chapel of St. Roch.
On Christmas Day, children open the gifts left for them by le Pere Noel (Santa) and his helper, Pere Fouettard, who have traveled through the land visiting each home to reward the good children of each household with gifts. Before going to bed the night before, the children leave their shoes by the fireplace – to be filled by Pere Noel.
Festivities continue during the following days including St. Sylvestre (New Year’s Eve), which is celebrated with family and friends – through to Jan 6th – the Feast of the Three Kings when the traditional “Galette des Rois” a brioche sprinkled with crystalizd fruit is served to celebrate the day that the three kings reached the baby Jesus. At this time the Santons of the Kings are placed in the crèche.