Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Marché de Noël, Avignon

I have not spent Christmas or New Years in France since we lived in Strasbourg when my father was a doctoral student at the Université de Strasbourg more years ago than I like to admit. I remember Strasbourg as a magical place during the Christmas season.

So I have been looking forward to seeing and experiencing the sights, sounds and smells of the holidays in the Vaucluse, the region in Provence where our home in Sablet is located.

As you know, we have our children and grandchildren with us so all of our activities are planned around what Avery (4 years), Dylan (3 years), Caedon (2 years) and Madison (7 weeks) will enjoy or at least will not be out of place plus we have to plan for meals and nap times.

An obvious choice was to go to the Marché de Noël - Christmas Market in Avignon. Since we are 10 in all (6 adults and 4 children), we have two cars and drive in caravan everywhere we go. As you can imagine, it is quite an ordeal to pack bags for two moms with diapers, wipes, drinks, snacks, toys and other miscellaneous items for 4 kids and then get them buckled into car seats.

The Avignon Christmas Market is set up in Place de l'Horloge, the center of activity in Avignon near the Palais des Papes. We parked in the garage at Les Halles market, a covered market with about 40 vendors that is open every day except Monday, a short distance from the Place de l'Horloge.

The Christmas Market is a collection of small white shops set up by the city of Avignon in front of the Hotel de Ville. Vendors offer Christmas decorations, gifts, regional foods and artisan's products plus vin chaud, a warm spicy red mulled wine. We wandered around the shops, tried the vin chaud and bought a variety of Christmas ornaments for our Christmas tree.

This scene of bears sitting in the snow delighted the little ones as we walked into the Christmas market.

The kids were very excited to see the big carousel with the horses going round and round and immediately ran toward it asking "can we go?"

They showed their pleasure at riding the horses on the carousel with such vigor that papa couldn't resist paying for them to go around a second time.

The City of Avignon sets up a traditional Provençal crèche with santons (Provençal: "little saint") in the Hotel de Ville every year. A santon is a small hand-painted, terracotta nativity scene figurine produced by artisans in workshops in Provence. The santons represent various characters from Provençal village life such as the baker, the winemaker, and the farmer wife with eggs.

The crèche in the Hotel de Ville was set up by the Marcel Carbonel workshop in Marseille. It shows an imaginary landscape decorated with Provençal villages, fields and hills and includes more than 500 santons.

The crèche in the Avignon Hotel de Ville is large, nearly 600 square feet. The five pictures which follow show the crèche from left to right.

Along side the crèche in the Hotel de Ville, there is a Table Calendale - Christmas Table set up with the thirteen desserts which are the traditional Christmas dessert in Provence. The Christmas supper ends with 13 dessert items, representing Jesus Christ and the 12 apostles.

Enjoy! A bientot.


  1. I've always wondered what the significance of the 13 desserts was, thanks!

  2. Wow, traveling with 10 is a lot! But what fun with the kids & I'm sure they just loved the Christmas market - especially with those cute bears.
    Haven't made it all the way to Avignon yet - can't wait to stroll those pretty streets!

  3. Sara - I'm glad I could help!

    Tuula - It was definitely different to have to plan our activities around the kids. But we had a great time and it was fun to all be together.