The cities of Provence transform every December as they set up markets, hang lights, and prepare delicious regional specialties in preparation for the Christmas season, called Calendale. Holiday cheer and intimate markets can be found in Provence in the South of France throughout the season. From Lyon to Avignon, these make-shift villages, called “Marchés de Noël,” are full of charm and character. Visit the sparkling Provençal cities and towns and learn about rich Christmas traditions along the Rhône River on new Colors of Provence (Christmas) Cruise itinerary.
Magical Provençal Christmas Markets
Stepping into the Christmas Markets of Provence, you can’t help but take in the smells of mulled wine, spices, and pine. The markets are a shopper's delight. Whether you are looking to treat yourself or a loved one, villages like St. Rémy and Carpentras are the perfect spot to find a gift. Local artisans line the streets and Père Noël, or Santa Claus, is never hard to find.
If you get hungry as you shop, no worries – food is never far! Merchants are happy to offer a taste of the region’s specialties: cheeses, cinnamon cakes, and gingerbread are aplenty. Many vendors are prepared with everything you need to set up for the traditional Provençal Christmas Eve dinner and thirteen desserts.
Why Thirteen Desserts?
During the Gros Souper (the Big Supper) on Christmas Eve, families set up a table with three white tablecloths and three white candles – representing the holy trinity. The meal is held before midnight mass and consists of six courses, traditionally fish and vegetarian dishes. After returning from mass, it is time for the famous thirteen desserts. Representing Jesus and the 12 disciples, these treats fall into four categories: dried fruit and nuts, candied fruit, fresh fruit, and pastries.
You will likely see calissons (white almond-shaped candies made of candied fruit, almond flour, and fondant) among these desserts. A Provençal specialty, calissons can be found in most patisserie windows and market stands. In St. Rémy’s small-town market, stretches of the Christmas Market specialize in the Gros Souper and thirteen desserts, providing everything locals need for their Christmas Eve meals. Taste regional sweets from some of the country’s best dessert specialists for yourself during your St. Rémy Christmas Markets excursion.