The Baux-de-provence: A Magical Destination For Christmas.
Medieval town cherished by tourists throughout the year for its beauty and its Quarries of Light, Les Baux-de-Provence hold a special magic during the end-of-year festivities. We invite you to discover the places and traditions that make this town an essential destination for Christmas.
The Museum of Santons.
Visiting Les Baux-de-Provence during the end-of-year festivities allows one to immerse themselves in the Christmas traditions of Provence, such as the santons, for example. This commune in the Alpilles is home to a Santon Museum where you can admire unique pieces.
The museum's collections comprise Neapolitan figurines from the 17th and 18th centuries, as well as church santons from the 19th century created by the Carmelite convent of Avignon. The museum also has creations by famous santon-makers and stages these various characters to illustrate local traditions.
Visitors can discover the daily life of a family in the 19th century and a traditional Provençal nativity scene. The shepherd's offering ceremony, called Pastrage, is also represented in a setting depicting Les Baux-de-Provence. A very large canvas showing the midnight mass in the village completes the santon collections.
The Chapel of the White Penitents.
Another place where the Christmas traditions of Provence are well represented is the Chapel of the White Penitents. This chapel located on the church square overlooks the Vallon de la Fontaine.
Behind its modest facade lies a treasure to be discovered: a fresco depicting the Christmas of the shepherds in the Provençal tradition. This fresco with shimmering colors was created by the artist Yves Brayer in 1974, at the request of the Minister of Cultural Affairs Maurice Druon and the mayor of the time, Raymond Thuilier.
It is in this same chapel that the shepherds of Les Baux-de-Provence organize a live nativity scene every year.
Midnight Mass at Saint Vincent's Church.
Right across from the Chapel of the Penitents, the Saint-Vincent Church features a truly remarkable architecture as it is half-troglodytic. Its two naves carved into the rock date back to the 12th century.
The stained-glass windows, which were donated by Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1962, bear the Bethlehem star which is the symbol of the commune. But above all, it is in this beautiful Romanesque church that the midnight mass and the shepherds' ceremony take place every year, meaning the presentation of a lamb by the shepherds.
In several villages of Provence, the Pastrage is part of the soul of Christmas, and Les Baux-de-Provence is no exception! During the Christmas mass, the shepherds walk in procession to the church, accompanied by drummers and villagers in traditional costume to celebrate the birth of the Christ Child.
The Bayle, who is the master shepherd, offers the newest-born lamb of his flock to the Christ Child. The Provençal tradition dictates that this lamb be placed in a cart adorned with greenery and ribbons. During the procession to the church, the cart is pulled by a flouca, that is, a ram that leads the flock.
The Aubade Ceremony.
The Aubade Ceremony is another tradition that has been perpetuated by the shepherds of the Vallée des Baux since the 16th century. As its name suggests, this local tradition involves giving a serenade on Christmas Eve.
Each year, on December 24th, shepherds from the Alpilles and the Crau parade with their animals through the streets of Les Baux-de-Provence to the sound of the tambourine and the galoubet, the typical Provencal recorder. They sing: "We have come down, the shepherds from the mountain, to announce that Christmas is nearing."
In addition to the serenade and the shepherd's parade, the women from Arles dance the farandole. This tradition dear to the hearts of the people of Baux makes their village one of the most beautiful destinations to celebrate Christmas in Provence.