THE SANTONS OF PROVENCE
To prepare the Christmas crib, there are numerous santons markets organised throughout the Provence region from mid-November on. The real santon, deriving from the Provençal word “santoun” meaning little saint, is handmade from clay by craftsmen with a love of their art. Santons must then take on a human aspect, with a personalised appearance, character and even social status.
They represent the inhabitants of the village visiting the Christmas crib: pétanque players, fishmongers, doctors, bakers, shepherds, etc. Here the traditional crib is in fact an ideal model of a Provençal village and its inhabitants. This tradition is present in each department of Provence but it is particularly strong in the Bouches du Rhône.
This season, I have reflected on the many Christmases my sons and I spent at our family ranch in Southern Arizona — and our Christmas tree.
Our Christmas season began with the search, cutting and placement of the Christmas tree. It would be dragged into the far end of the living room where a metal container was set inside a wooden barrel. Two people would hold the tree in position, then we would position large rocks in the barrels to hold the tree in place. This was after much turning, tilting to get it just so, little to the left/little to the right, branches trimmed, and eventually there was a symbiotic relationship between barrels/rocks/and a very large tree.
Boxes were brought into the living room, lids dusted off, ornaments unwrapped, and we decorated the tree. All the while, my mother sat on the couch directing us where the ornament should be hung, etc. …. as only mothers can do(!). We did not have solid blues or silvers or gold ornaments – the tree was an eclectic mix of ornaments bought or made by family members over the years. These brightly colored pieces were individual elements of the jigsaw puzzle representing our family story. Decorated pine cones, Mexican tin cut outs, thin glass orbs, silver stars, Oriental tassels, Swedish straw houses, woolly sheep, wooden cows, glittery angels, golden carousels with “Charlie 1974” “Michael 1969” — we’d laugh and remember when we got this one or that one, who was where at what time, where we lived — and slowly, our tree of memories was complete. A small moment in time..
I wish you all a season filled with remembrances of those special moments in your life and a smile lights your face.
Let’s carry that smile with us …
Happy Holidays and Peace for the New Year
P.S. MERRY CHRISTMAS