Home for the Holidays

Last year, my family and I went off to Cameroon for the holidays to see part of my mother’s family. It was a wonderful Christmas spent discovering and rediscovering family and a village I had not been to in decades. We ate, we danced, we laughed and my son left there speaking more English than ever! Not at all a bad way to spend the holidays.

Well this year, we are staying put in the glorious south of France. This will be our son’s third Christmas and while he may vaguely remember last year’s, I doubt he recalls his very first. I, his nutty mother had my 7 day old baby already in the arms of a mall Santa for his very first holiday picture. I was feeling energized I guess.

I remember my very first Christmas in France. I was a student at the time. It was probably the longest lunch I have ever participated in. Someone should have told me to take a major power nap prior to sitting down to feast. I was ill-prepared and as I was a foreign guest, I did not want to makes waves at all so I was oh so grateful when one of the sons said he was heading back to the house and either he asked me if I wanted to come along or I just jumped up as if he had. Either way, I was saved some dropping head first on the table.

Christmas in the South of France is very family-oriented – probably in all of France really. While New Year’s can be spent with your friends, you would be in a bit of trouble I think, if you missed out on the family gathering up to a certain age. It is a quiet time to share with loved ones and while the frenzy of holiday shopping has become just as much a part of the tapestry, the traditions still stay strong. Take the 13 desserts of a Christmas in Provence for example. Did you know that there is an entire holiday market dedicated to just that? In Aix en Provence you can partake in this vital tradition from December 16th till the 24th.

Another French tradition is the crèche- (the manger). While this has now become a hot debate in a country that values its Laicité (simple definition – separation of church and state), you will still find many live and built manger scenes. But what are all those extra characters you sometimes see on the scene of the birth of Christ?

If you have ever traveled through the Southeast of France – notably in Provence, you have probably noticed the little figurines being sold in various boutiques of bakers, farmers, peasants, mules and so on. These are the santons are their story is a long one, dating back to the 12th century. Going beyond the traditional manger scene this tradition which is thought to have originated in Italy, brings the entire village to the birth of Christ. The creation of these tiny figurines has now become an art form and Marseille is the artists haven having been named the “capitale santonnière”, and hosting the Foire aux Santons & aux Crèches (the Santon and Manger fair), since 1803. This year – the 214th, you have a chance to visit the fire from the 19th of November till the 31st of December form 9 am till 7 PM. Instead of an actual address the official site the site gives GPS coordinates 43.295543 / 5.375597. I discovered the location was on the Place Charles du Gaulle (thank you Google).

Closer to home: Uzès holds its Christmas market with stands on the Place aux Herbes as well as the appearance of Santa Claus in horse and buggy and of course musical fanfare from the 17th till the 19th of December.

Another notable event that has people talking around here, is the opening of the truffle season. The Weekend de la Truffe (when the large truffle market will take place on place aux herbes will be from January 13-15 2017 but from December 14th till March 15th you can visit La Truffière d’Uzès to learn about this other magical mushroom.

These are just a few of the things going on in and around Uzès. So much to do and see. I simply can’t believe that it will already be Christmas next week. We’ve put up the Xmas decorations in the house and though we opted to use our fake tree this year rather than going out for a real tree, I still think it looks pretty spectacular. We’ve amassed quite a collection of ornaments over the years and usually I like to add one new one each year though I haven’t found THE ONE for this year yet.

Remi and I have also been baking and decorating some holiday cookies. He loves messing about in the kitchen and insists on doing things himself. A chef in the making? Who knows but in the meantime he’s all a part of making the spirit bright.

We had a fantastic time at the Pont du Gard which organized on December 11th a holiday event for the little ones with interactive instructive games, a few small rides and face painting as well as the most important – a photo with Santa. We took Remi and a friend of his from school. My son who is usually camera ready was so impressed by the whole thing that his smile was hard to come by. Ah well! It was still a lovely photo and a lovely day spent.

From our family to yours,

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