Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Provencial Christmas

Christmastime is often a revert to the past, to what's comfortable, familiar, and loving. We gather with family and share warm experiences and thoughts, gifts, hugs, and laughs. Unless of course for the last 6 years you've lived in entirely different cities spanning over 3 continents. As an expat abroad, holidays are fun but also tough times. We get to share new experiences and see how the rest of the world celebrates, but we're away from everything familiar and our family that we love. In recent years, we've made it a point to travel even more, letting the excitement of experiencing yet another new place overpower the loneliness of missing home. This year that didn't work out, and we weren't sure what to expect. God knew what He was doing though, and our Christmas at home in Provence has been a lot of fun already!

We've learned about the traditions of our current home (Marseille, France) and have truly enjoyed becoming more a part of this city and region. Perhaps the most famous tradition that Provence is known for around the world are the handcrafted and extremely popular Santons made here. Beginning in December, our Christmas markets fill up with thousands upon thousands of little people. Santons are, at their core, a nativity scene. You start with Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus......then you can add some shepherds, wise men, animals, angels. And then the part that makes it original: You build an entire old French Provence town around the manger. There's fisherman, teachers, olive pickers, lavender farmers, bakers, old men playing pétanque, and the options go on and on and on. Yeah, it may not all be in the Bible, but it is all in the hearts of everyone from Provence. It's also displayed on a table of just about every home in Provence through the month of December. We haven't started our collection yet: these things aren't cheap! We will get it going next year, piece by piece until our house is overrun by clay French lilliputians.

Another tradition about which we've been learning is "la bûche" cake. This is the #1 traditional dessert in France for Christmas. We've now sampled at least one at every recent party and dinner we've hosted or attended. They can come in many different flavors and consistencies, but the thing that remains the same is the shape and look. They are designed to look like logs, ready for the fireplace, or consumption with a fork in this case.

In order to feel a little more normal at Christmas, we've made some efforts to get out and see lights. Living in a major city makes houses all decked out with lights and lawn ornaments and the like hard to find, but the urban centers do light up for festivity. Here's a few shots of our streets at night in December: Seems like a pretty high and traffic congested place to put a disc golf hole. Joyeux Noël tout le monde!

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