Christmas traditions

How to prepare "Le Gros Souper" and the 13 desserts

Pays d'Aix

Accompanied by an expert in Provençal cookery, today you can learn how to prepare Christmas dinner in the Provençal tradition. We will meet at your hotel at 8:30 a.m. to visit Aix market with this Provençal cook.

Nothing must be forgotten for the preparation later on, in the great family kitchen of an 18th-century farmhouse, of the Christmas Eve meal called the "high supper".

The festive Christmas meal (fête calendale) is the most important event in the Provençal calendar. Each home perpetuates this meal, which is meat-free and yet so copious with its winter recipes. You will discover that tradition gives Christmas night a unique festive character, even to the way the table is laid, with three white tablecloths one on top of the other, as symbols of Trinity and Hope.

The menu includes seven meat-free dishes commemorating the seven sorrows of the Virgin Mary.

The meal ends with the famous 13 desserts which symbolise Christ and the 12 apostles.

Lunch will be included so that you can taste all these spe- cialities.

In the late afternoon you will visit Aix calissons factory where you will learn some secrets about the manufacture of this delicious sweet, which is a speciality of our city.

After such a full day, you are free to organise your own evening meal.

Service Providers for « le gros souper » : Marc Héracle

To prepare the Christmas Festivities


Day to be suggested in November, not on weekends

8:30 - 9 a.m. - departure from Aix en Provence

9:30-10 a.m. - arrival in Arles, tour of the city: Roman and Christian Arles; Van Gogh's time in Arles (Roman theatre from outside, Roman amphitheatre, Place du Forum, Hôtel Dieu, Town Hall, Sainte Trophime Church)

Lunch in Arles

2:30 p.m. - the "Provence Prestige" show brings together all the trades specialising in produces, accessories and gifts for Christmas. (3rd or last Week End of November)

OR if the show is not on:

2 p.m. - Saint Trophime Cloister, international santons exhi- bition (from November 15th to January 15th) which gathers the most outstanding collections of Provençal craftsmen but also artists from other regions. Contemporary creations, made of all kind of material, can be admired with the most classic ones.

3 p.m. - Museon Arlaten (an hour visit or an hour and a half depending as requested)

4 - 4:30 p.m. - visit of a shop selling wooden and ceramic toys (including "taraillettes", small cast-iron cooking utensils). 6 p.m. arrival in Aix-en-Provence

Tne nativity scene villages

Saint-Remy de Provence / Les Baux de Provence

Suggested day: Wednesday, market day in St Rémy

9 a.m. - departure for the day with a qualified guide-lecturer.

The first stop will be at Les Antiques and St Paul de Mausole where Van Gogh still walks ... Then on to the village of Saint Rémy de Provence and its market in the old town. Besides its historical interest, the village is full of galleries, craft shops and boutiques, where you may find some special gifts for under the Christmas tree!

Free time for lunch or group organised lunch in the village.

Afternoon: we will take the Val d’Enfer road to the magnifi- cent village of Les Baux de Provence. In the church of Les Baux, your guide will tell you about all the traditions of this part of Provence... The return trip goes through La Petite Provence du Paradou which sets the final touch to its large Nativity Scene.

Return to Aix around 6 p.m.

Popular arts and Traditions

Marseilles / Aubagne

Except Mondays

9 a.m. - leave Aix-en-Provence after breakfast to discover two renowned towns in the history and traditions of Christmas in Provence: Marseilles and Aubagne.

The first stop will be in Marseilles, a 2,600 years old city. Of course, you will love the beauty of the Old Port with its winter light. But as you go up the Canebière you will quickly be attracted by the region's oldest santon market (free time to browse in the market). Return to the coach to discover outside the traditional tourist routes, the Village of Château-Gombert, with the Marseilles Regional Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions (Julien Pignol Museum).The museum‘s special feature is staying for lunch and taste the traditional dishes.

After this unusual lunch we go on to Aubagne, the pottery town. You will participate briefly in the santon-maker works- hop Di Landro who will tell you all the tips and hints to make a dressed santon, as well as a visit to the little museum and the souvenir shop.

The day would not be complete without a stop in Aubagne town centre. During the Christmas period the "Petit Monde de Pagnol" nativity scene, and the large nativity scene on the Cours Foch, must not be missed (from December 20th).

Return to Aix around 6 p.m.

Other contacts

Office de Tourisme Events during Christmas period

Culture Provençale

L'Oustaou de Provenco Resource and information centre on Provencal culture Contact: Jacques MOUTET

Parc Jourdan 13100 Aix en Provence T +33 (0)4 42 26 23 41


The best nativity cribs in the department:

  • Cathédrale Saint Sauveur
  • Crèche Provençale Laser Allauch
  • Notre Dame de la Garde à Marseille

T +33 (0)4 91 10 49 20


Li Venturié the art of costume, quilting, Provencal embroidery

T +33 (0)4 42 26 23 41


Bravade Calendale: Sunday before Christmas: demonstration by folk groups and offering of oil pump to the town authorities.

Shepherds Mass in Miramas: 1st Sunday in December Traditional Shepherd’s Mass in Provencal, folk groups.

Domaine de Sulauze

T +33 (0)4 90 58 02 02

In association with the Istres Shepherds Festival

T +33 (0)4 42 55 51 16

The March of the Kings: 2nd Sunday in January. Solemn march of the Kings in Saint Sauveur Cathedral, concert by the Petits Chanteurs d’Aix boys choir

La Pastorale: Nativity plays in the different villages. For individuals


Soirée Calendale, advice for organising a traditional ‘gros souper’ dinner

Associations: demonstration of folk dances, musical entertainment:

Académie du Tambourin Demonstration, Concert, Lecture  Price for 2h: around €150/€200

T +33 (0)4 42 26 12 62

Lou Roudelet dei Mielo Price € 400 /evening or 2 h

T +33 (0)4 42 26 25 32

Lei Farandoulaire Sestian Traditional Christmas Meal for individuals each year. Price €400 to €460/ for 1 1⁄2 hours.

T +33 (0)4 42 29 72 25 T +33 (0)4 42 20 39 37