Many French cities organize the traditional Christmas markets (Marché de Noël), Alsace is the region where the Christmas markets are more authentic, thanks to its proximity and its historical links with Germany. Among the Christmas markets in Alsace, one of the oldest is the market in Strasbourg, but the one in Colmar is also very beautiful, with a great atmosphere, even if smaller, the markets in Kaysersberg, Riquewihr and Obernai. Among the Christmas markets in France, the markets of Lorraine are also worth visiting, another region that has suffered, in the past, the German influence. Provence is also a region with interesting Christmas traditions, here the typical nativity scene figurines called “santons” are inevitable. Among the curiosities, for example in Aubagne in Provence, you will find the market of nativity scene figurines.
Even if the tradition of the markets concerns Alsace and to a lesser extent Lorraine, in recent years there are many French cities where, during the Advent period, the Christmas markets are organized, among the most beautiful and important obviously those of the capital Paris, but very beautiful are also those of Metz, Lille, Nantes, Grenoble, Carcassonne, Montbéliard, Avignon, Toulouse, Besançon and Albi.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN ALSACE
Alsace, the smallest French region, is the one where the traditions of the Christmas markets are most alive and real, this border region of France, in fact, has a historical past in which it was under German influence for hundreds of years In fact, until the 17th century it was a possession of the Habsburgs, and only at the end of the Thirty Years War, with the Peace of Westphalia (1648), did it become part of the Kingdom of France. In 1870, after the Franco-Prussian War, Alsace became part of Germany again and remained there until 1919. Alsatian dialects similar to German are still spoken in the region.
In the weeks of Advent, from the end of November to Christmas, and sometimes even beyond, until the new year, the towns and villages of Alsace are lit up for celebration, the facades of the houses, streets and shops are full of decorations and Christmas lights, and many villages host the traditional Christmas markets.
Among the most beautiful markets in Alsace are those of Strasbourg, the oldest in all of France, it dates back to 1570; of Colmar, where the setting in the beautiful historic center is very beautiful and evocative; and of Mulhuose. For those arriving in Alsace during the Christmas period, a visit to some of the Christmas markets in the smaller towns of this beautiful French region, such as Haguenau, Thann, Riquewihr, Eguisheim, Struth and Obernai, should not be missed. The region is small and the distances to travel short, in three-four days you can easily visit the markets and the most beautiful villages.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS IN PROVENCE
In Provence the Advent period is very rich in traditions, especially during this period the family is the center of attention. The 4th of December is a very popular feast of Ste Barbe, on this day it is customary to sow three seeds of wheat in different dishes covered with wet cotton. If, in the following days, the stems grow straight and green, the coming year will be prosperous.
But the best known tradition of Provence is the crèche, i.e. the nativity scene (crèche), and in particular the small clay statuettes of the characters that compose it, called santons. Throughout Provence, during the Advent period, special markets are organized, called “foires aux santons”, where these colorful figurines are sold. The figurines represent the characters and the trades of the Provençal village that adorn and complement the holy family. The tradition of the “santos” is present throughout the region, but the original area and where this tradition is most alive is the area of the mouth of the Rhone, particularly in the area between Marseille, Aubagne, Aix en Provence and Arles.
The Christmas events in Provence are different and always interesting, here you will find the classic Christmas markets enriched by the clay figurines of the “santons” which represent the particularity and true tradition of Christmas in Provence.