Traditions

This area of the site explores the rich and varied cultural traditions of Provence from the Tarot de Marseille to santons, lavender, indiennes fabrics and cicadas - not forgetting our full guide to provençal Christmas celebrations.

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A ceramic or pottery cigale (cicada)Love them or loathe them, you can't escape cicadas, or cigales as they're known locally, if you come to Provence in high summer. But there's much more to the cicada than just a raucous din.

Indiennes provencal fabric, with cicadasOne of the prettiest, most evocative - and cheapest - souvenirs you can buy in Provence are the traditional fabrics known locally as “les indiennes”.

The pastrage at Les Baux de ProvenceThe cities of Northern and Central Europe are more famous for their Christmas markets, but this is also a magical season in Provence.

Santon of a peasant woman holding a pompe a l'huileNot simply tourist trinkets, these Christmas crib figures are an authentic folk tradition, and many provençal homes still maintain elaborate Nativity cribs today.

Savon de MarseilleYou can't mistake an authentic bar of Marseille soap. Olive green or creamy white, it's a large, perfect cube, embossed on all six faces, with no added perfume or fancy packaging. Here is our essential guide to one of the city's most famous products.

Provencal table laid for the Great Supper on Christmas EveForget roast turkey and mince pies: Provence has its own very different but equally delicious festive foods and eating traditions at Christmas.

The wheat of Saint Barbara (le blé de la Sainte Barbe)Stand by for a long Christmas season - known locally as La Calendale - in Provence! People here love to celebrate, and for as long as possible, and the Calendale runs almost two months.

The Hanged Man tarot cardThe Magician, the Hermit, the Hanged Man, the Wheel of Fortune and the controversial Papesse: these are some of the mysterious and metaphorical cards in the word-famous Tarot de Marseille.

A "caganer" santon of Queen ElizabethChristmas crib figures are not just about the Holy Family and picturesque peasants (click here to read about traditional santons). Some santon-makers are keen to give them a cheeky or surprising spin.

Close-up of lavender flowerAll about the man who invented aromatherapy, where bees go on their summer holidays, lavender in cooking and in literature and the crisis facing farmers today in the first part of our Little Lavender Lexicon.

Acvertisement for Le Male perfume by Jean-Paul l GaultierThe difference between lavender and lavandin, a history of lavender loving, the year lavender bloomed on the Old Port of Marseille, the surprisingly masculine image of lavender water and Provence's pretty version of the lavender bag.

lavender harvest smallJust outside Sault on the route towards Mont Ventoux, this organic lavender farm and distillery offers a delightful range of activities, most of them free, and is especially well set up for children.

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