Avignon’s Christmas nativity scenes and Little Saints are a must-see. These elaborate and traditional displays are also known as the crèche Provençale or Provençal crib and they have been around since the French Revolution. At that time, churches were forcibly closed and sacked. Both masses and nativity scenes were banned. In response, devout Christians created their own crèche to keep the tradition alive in their homes. They crafted “santons”, or little saints, made of clay. These figurines not only included the Holy Family, shepherds and Three Kings, but also the ordinary peasants of Provence.
In Avignon, many churches showcase a crèche and the city sponsors its own crèche. Normally, it is displayed at the Hôtel de Ville (town hall), but this year it was held at L’église des Célestins. The elaborate display was a joy to see. We loved all of the detail and creativity that went into it. Although, it deserved better lighting.
Directly in front of the church (eglise) there were several Christmas Market stalls, many of which displayed beautiful and intricate santons. Here are just a few.