Last week in Provence Christmas – St. Barbe’s Feast, I mentioned that the “Pompiers” – the Firefighters of Sablet had invited all the village and all visitors who wished, to join them on December 7th for a Benediction at the Church of St. Nazaire (next door to our house Maison des Pelerins), followed by a candlelight parade to the Village for a Reception and aperitifs.
One of our dear neighbors, Margret Storck (who is a professional photographer), was kind enough to send me some fabulous pictures, so we can all share in Sablet’s celebration to welcome the “Calendales” – the Christmas Season. Thanks so much Margret, for the beautiful pictures that help us to have a little part in this celebration of the Season.
Here we are … ready and waiting … The Church of St. Nazaire looks warm and inviting on a cold evening, as the time draws near when villagers will gather for a short ceremony of invocation to St Barbara, asking for her divine guidance and blessings.
The light from inside the Church, and the illuminated Campanile stand in contrast to the dark winter’s evening. The lighted Campanile of St Nazaire – like a beacon guiding the way – can be seen for miles across the Le Plan de Dieu, when you approach Sablet at night. (Had we been at Maison des Pelerins on that night, right at about this time, we’d be peeking from our front door waiting for the first arrivals before venturing over ourselves).
But, before any of the arrivals could be considered, a Final Inspection was necessary, and … Igor has given his approval .. so the festivities can commence!
Out of the darkness, the Pompiers round the corner from Place de l’Eglise and arrive at the front of the church …
The Pompiers enter a packed church and are welcomed by the priest
The Benediction commences… the standard bearers have taken their place up on the altar, where the Sablet Firefighter’s statue of St Barbe is on display for the occasion.
The Benediction is coming to a close as the Priest walks through the church blessing the congregation with holy water
The Pompiers lead by their standard bearer, file down from the altar past the statue fo St. Barbe, the Patron of the evening’s celebrations, and outside where some of the crowd are already waiting for them. At the end of the Benediction, each attendee was given a candle lighted torch to carry, as the group prepares to make their way to the Reception down in the village.
Led by the Pompiers, the procession starts to make its way from the front of the Church, down the steps that lead to Grande Rue, where they turn left towards Le Petit Portail.
… And all the family gets involved with this Feast day celebration…
As the procession comes through Le Petit Portail and get closer to the Village center ….
Nearing Place de la Croix – in the center of the village, decorated with colored lights for the Season …
Out of the cold night and arriving at the Reception for Aperitifs … a Reception line awaits to welcome all who take part in the festivities.
Sablet’s statue of St Barbara who is seen here chained to her stone tower, a fire fighter’s helmet, axe and hose below. She is the patron saint of firefighters, and those in dangerous professions and protects against “sudden death” — such as death by lightning, fire, flood, and earthquake.
For many days now, in most of the smaller & larger towns and cities in Provence .. log cabins have been appearing. Artisan sellers have moved in with everything from Regional candies and toys to hand made quilts, sweaters, hats and santons! Everything Christmas is here including a great Christmas ambiance. What fun! If you are travelling in the area at Christmas, with or without children – the Christmas Markets of Provence are a must.
Christmas Markets of Provence – Avignon – Let’s go Shopping! The towns are decorated with lots of lights, signs wishing, “Joyeuse Fetes” and “Joyeux Noel” (happy Christmas and happy holidays). The markets will be open every day and late into the evening, until January 2nd 2011. Children’s events and activities, concerts, processions, street performers, warm mulled wine, hot apple cider, hot chocolate, warm roasted chestnuts and spice bread – all treats that make Christmas shopping relaxing, fun and a lot less stressful.
Only thirty minutes drive from Sablet, Avignon’s Christmas Market is one of my favorites – held on the beautiful Place de l’Horloge in front of the stately City Hall which is dressed up for the occasion in its Christmas finest. You can take a leisurely stroll through the fifty something stalls, stop and talk to Père Noel (Santa), ride the magnificent Carousel and enjoy the ambience whilst purchasing goodies for your Christmas feast or souvenirs to bring home.
You will treated to all kinds for food choices – regional products, home made jams, jellies and preserves, an unbelievable variety of artisanal cheeses, baked goodies – especially the incredible Pain d’Epices (Spice Cake), handmade chocolates, several varieties of nougat, preserved meats and saucisson (salami) of all shapes and sizes.
As you enter the market, the smell of the warm roasted chestnuts can’t be missed
– and is the favorite “walking around “ food, although…….. all food stall holders are very ready to let you sample and they love to hear your opinion!
A number of Santonniers display their figurines (Santons), which make up the Provencal Christmas Créche. At Avignon Christmas Market you can stroll down the “Chemin des Crèches” (Nativity Road). This is a very pleasant and pretty walk through the lighted Nativity displays composed of a variety of styles of Santons.
The Nativity (“Creche”), is an important decortion in Provence, as according to legend, Jesus was born in Provence and each Creche represents the particular village at the time of his birth. In addition to the usual figurines you would see in a Nativity, Provencal Santonniers carve additional figures of characters you would normally see in the village – the baker, the butcher the grocer, the wood cutter and many others.
Aix-en-Provence Christmas Market
In Aix-en-Provence the elegant Cours Mirabeau is lined on both sides with log cabin market stalls. The spectacular display of Christmas lights on this beautiful boulevard adds to the festive atmosphere as shopping continues well into the evening
Orange Christmas Market
If you’ve been just wishing to escape the frenzy of Christmas at the Mall – the Christmas Markets of Provence provide the best antidote…
See you by the Hot Chestnuts stand!