Greetings dear readers and friends. Well, I hope this post isn’t too early… This year I am super excited to actually be celebrating Thanksgiving with a good American expat friend of mine. She’s from South Carolina, so she’s got the southern thing all figured out and I’ll try to throw in a dash of California flare. Somehow, I think she’s got me beat in the cooking department.
That being said, Thanksgiving is a somewhat dim and distant thought for most people in France. Christmas is already on its way with the shops and boutiques loaded up with decorations of all the colors of the season. And I felt like I just had to write about the Christmas markets sooner than later because there are already a few markets kicking off… even a very special one this weekend. Yes, it’s a tad earlier, but who can resist?
If the weather’s nice, we’ll be making the hour’s drive to visit the “English Christmas Market” at Château de Berne. As soon as they threw “carrot cake” up on the list of stands, I knew we had to go. Did I mention that Château de Berne has amazing, award-winning rosé wine? Either we’ll come back broke with a lot of Christmas presents to show for it… or a lot of cases of wine.
I’ll keep you updated on how it all turns out, and in the meantime I’d like to share a few of our favorite Christmas markets in the Provence. There are a lot of special places to visit around the south at Christmastime.
Thank goodness this beautiful, quintessentially Provençal town is only 45 minutes away. And boy do they go all-out for Christmas. From November 20th to December 29th, you can find the traditional Christmas market on Cours Mirabeau – offering more than 50 chalets with everything from craft items to mulled wine. Then starting on November 22nd, just across the street, you’ll find the Santons fair. Santons are Nativity figurines and accessories which are crafted my local artisans – a tried and true Provençal tradition. The Santons fair runs until December 31st. And don’t miss out on another traditional South-of-France biggie: the 13 Desserts of Provence market from December 17th – December 24th. Hosted by the regional agricultural society, the 13 Desserts are present on every (very traditional) Provençal table at Christmastime – each representing a different local or religious symbol. I wrote a little something about them last year in Christmas Traditions in Provence (short piece on the santons as well).
The Christmas market takes place in the center of town on Jean-Jaures Avenue. This year it will run from November 30th to December 30th and feature 25 chalets dedicated to regional products, food specialties, santons, local textiles, and jewelry.
Other Christmas activities like crafts workshops and tastings are held all around town and the magic of the season comes to life in this « city of the popes ». Find the entire program from the Avignon tourist office.
The cute and cozy town of Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, known as the Venice of Provence, lies on the Sorgue river and is famous for its floating market (merchants sell their wares on boats à la Venetian-style) and its numerous antiques shops. It’s also know for hosting a wonderful Christmas event known as La Fête des Lumières. This “light’s festival” sees participation from the whole town– shopkeepers decorate their windows with lights of all forms and village houses are lit up all around town. There are concerts, food tastings, performances, and light shows throughout the day. This year’s Fête will take place on December 7th.
Isle-sur-la-Sorgue’s Christmas market is held in the Jardin Public and has events and activities throughout the holiday season. Find out more from Isle-sur-la-Sorgue’s tourist office.
This lovely town along the French Riviera is a wonderful spot to visit in the summer and surprisingly fun at Christmastime. The Hyéres Christmas market takes place from November 30th to January 4th and is just one of several holiday events in the city. Opening day of the market sees a parade (Les Fées Bougies) that will circle through the center of town and end with a welcome French “happy hour” (apéro). There are craft workshops for children, and of course Santa Claus (Père Noël) will make an appearance. On December 21st, the last few days before Christmas will be celebrated with a firework’s show.
Find out about all of the happenings from the city’s website.
Château de Berne
Well, what could be better than one Christmas market? How about three? Against the backdrop of a beautiful vineyard tucked away in the back-country of Provence, Château de Berne is home to three different Christmas markets. The English market takes place the weekend of November 9th-10th, and the following weekend will see the installation of the Provençal market, November 16th-17th. And to round out the Christmas bonanza, the Château will host an International Christmas market from November 23rd-24th.
All current and future happenings at Château de Berne can be found on their event’s page.
Wishing you a fantastic start to your holiday season!