In this year of pandemic, we decorated for Christmas early, as did many others. It made a nice diversion from the things going on in the world. So, the fact that my Christmas gifts didn’t arrive until the last day of December might have been a good thing, as it extended the anticipation another week…
This year, all I wanted for Christmas was santons – those little clay Provençal figurines that pop up every Christmas in the south of France. They’re part of the local Nativity scenes and every person in the village is represented. If you don’t know about them, you can read about santons here.
I began collecting santons when I lived in France. I would pick one up from time to time, but I didn’t want to get carried away and end up with an unwieldy collection. This year, however, I was suffering from Provence withdrawal. I hadn’t been there in more than a year and it didn’t seem likely that I would be going back anytime soon. I needed a bit of the south of France, and santons seemed like the perfect solution.
First, Jeff found a small collection of santons on eBay and was going to surprise me, but he was never very good at keeping a secret. So we both watched excitedly as the end of the auction drew near. The tension was running high as we sat on our sofa and stared at the computer screen, but we were sure no one would beat our high bid. Then at the last minute, someone swooped in and outbid us.
It was disappointing, but no problem, I just went online directly to Escoffier, one of the French santonniers (santon makers), and ordered some. There was still plenty of time for them to arrive before Christmas. However, the next day, the authorities closed the borders between the UK and France because of the new strain of covid. Delivery trucks were stuck for days, and I knew my santons would not reach me before Christmas.
Even though I had already placed my order, I peeked at eBay again, and I found another set of santons up for bid in the UK. This time, I won them. Now I had two deliveries of santons on their way to me. Every day I checked my postal tracking numbers, but they weren’t being updated because of the border closing and the Christmas rush. Every time the doorbell rang, I jumped up and ran to answer because I was sure it was my santons.
Finally, on the last day of 2020, my packages arrived. I may have gotten a bit carried away, as my santon collection has grown substantially. But I love them all, and they remind me of the places I’ve been and the things I’ve experienced in Provence.
I’ve already made a list of santons that I want to get next year, and I’m thinking I might also need to concentrate on their décor. Now that I have so many lovely santons, they need more houses… and stone walls… and animals… So much for not getting carried away!
The santons I had before were from various makers. The ones I ordered this year were from Escoffier and their workmanship and quality seem superior to some of the others I have. The detail is good and the colors are nice and bright. I think they may be my new favorite santonnier.
I hope you were as excited about your Christmas gifts as I was about mine (even if they were a bit late). Wishing you all a wonderful, happy, and healthy new year filled with things that bring you joy.
If you would like to read more about santons or the things represented by mine in the above photos, have a look at these links:
- Gourd Festival in Nice, France
- Goat Cheese Aperitif
- The Camargue with its cowboys, white horses, flamingos, and black bulls
- Lavender of Provence
- Nice, France
- The Mistral wind
- The tarasque festival in Tarascon
- History of foie gras
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