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Southern France
Lynn Deasy is a freelance writer, author, foodie, and garden tinkerer. She lives in a 600 year old house in southern France with her husband, Christophe. Currently, she is looking for a literary agent for her memoir CA VA? STORIES FROM RURAL LIFE IN SOUTHERN FRANCE which examines the oddities of French provincial living from an outsider’s point of view through a series of adventures that provide more than a fair share of frustration, education, admiration, and blisters…. yes, lots and lots of blisters. Lynn blogs every Monday, Wednesday, and sometimes Friday.

Friday, December 16, 2011

La crèche

The Nativity or la crèche is the strongest Christmas tradition in Southern France.  Nativity scenes can be bought anywhere from the grocery store to an artisan who carefully handcrafts each figurine.  However, there are some major differences between the Nativity scenes I’ve seen as a child, and les crèches I have viewed as an adult. 
A few years, Christophe and I celebrated Christmas at his aunt’s house in France.  Sometime between the aperitif and dinner’s first course, I got a closer look at the crèche and noticed something odd: in addition to the shepherds and the wise men, there was a range of people in it that I had never seen before.
Christophe explained, “in addition to the Nativity seen at the Church, many families have their own, but it’s generally quite different.  See that woman there?”  He said pointing to a figurine in a skirt carrying a basket full of laundry.  “She’s the lavandière.  Her job is to wash the clothes; she’s in all the Nativity scenes in the Provence region.  This man here is the knife sharpener.  Often, jobs like these that no longer exist are represented in addition to modern day ones we still have.  For example, that person, with the blue, white, and red sash, is the mayor; he is in almost all the homes too.  There is the hermit and there is the Ravi”.
“The Ravi?”  I asked looking at a figure whose arms are thrown into the air.
“A person of simple spirit who is in awe of Jesus”, Christophe explained.  “He is there to present the idea that Jesus resembles everyone.  Many of these people represent careers that were important to the region at one time or another, and these ‘saints’ as they are called, are in proximity to Jesus in the manger according to their importance.  The crèche is symbolic and important, even to those who aren’t particularly religious because figurines like these remind us of our past.”
And with that, I was shown once again how religious and cultural beliefs are combined.  One does not dominate the other and there is harmony between their intertwined existence. Together, they present a lesson in accepting where we are now and where we came from.  Beginnings might be humble, but accomplishments can be great.  Christmas is a celebration of that, no matter where we might be.

I will be traveling for the holidays, so I won’t be posting my regular blogs.  But, I will be popping in from time to time with a story a share and I’ll be back sometime in January.

 Until then, Happy Holidays.

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