The Christmas tradition of the Santons de Provence: a unique collection

The Christmas tradition of the Santons de Provence: a unique collection

My dear friend Laurie, with whom I have traveled many times in France, shares her story of her initiation into the Christmas tradition of santons from Provence. An important collection was bequeathed to him by a close friend who died many years ago. Here is his story.

Initiation of Laurie to the Christmas tradition of the Santons de Provence. Years ago, a dear friend named Donna introduced me to the Provençal Christmas tradition of santons. In French, Santon (sounds like sonntonn) means “little saint”.

These are handmade depictions of villagers in southern France from the period following the French Revolution. Accompanied by the shepherds and wise men, they also went to the manger with their modest gifts for the baby Jesus.

Fascinated by Christmas traditions, Donna discovered these intriguing figurines of santons in a library book called Les petits saints de Noël – Les santons de Provence by Daniel JFoley, Copyright 1959. In 1991, while I was planning my first trip to France, Donna invited me to tea and shared what she had learned from the book. His wish was that I buy several specific santons from him if I came across them on my travels and therefore it became my mission to find these little figurines and learn more about this French custom.