Winter in Provence has a very different feel to it from Spring or Summer. A lot less people, the days are shorter, the wind blows a bit more but what we get is the perfect season for hiking and biking. Days can get up into the 50s (or more!) and there is the provençal sun that warms you up! We can get gorgeous golden hues with the setting sun and then a symphony of reds, pinks, oranges for the sunset! We then cozy up by a fire and enjoy the longer evenings!
This being a more temperate climate, we still have local produce growing and available in the local markets. The stars of winter are squashes, all sorts, shapes, colors, textures, sizes, and tastes! We also have greens like spinach, lettuce, and chard. Carrots and potatoes of course are around, even sweet potatoes. This is the season for all sorts of soups and slow oven-cooked roasts.
On the fruit side we have pears, apples, persimmons, pomegranates, and even though it’s not Provence, clementines come in from Corsica to get us some vitamin C!
Here are a few winter highlights that we look forward to each year:
It being France food and wine are high up on the list of things to enjoy during the holiday season! You’ll see most holidays are Catholic based, but nowadays they have become much more secular and are just an excuse to eat good food!
Christmas- After the main meal the night of the 24th, here in Provence we have the 13 desserts, based on the number of the 12 apostles and Jesus. They are meant to be left out for 3 days and you have to try each dessert. Every family has their own list of what constitutes the 13 desserts but most people can agree on a few that have to make the list:
Pompe à huile: A cake-like bread made with olive oil and orange blossom water
Les Mendiants: Dried figs, raisins, almonds, and nuts like walnuts or hazelnuts
Fresh fruits: Grapes, Oranges, Dattes, or exotic fruits
Nougat: White, Red or Black
Other possibilities: Calissons, Candied fruits, Pâte de fruits (fruit jellies)
Christmas time is also the time for the crèches, or nativity scenes that people build with santons. Each provençal family has a collection of these little clay figurines that they use to create magnificent manger scenes. Some collections number in the 1000s! There are still a few local santon makers that have passed down the family tradition of fabricating these clay statuettes. There are many Christmas markets in the area, the big ones being in Aix en Provence and Marseille that sell the santons so that each year families collect more and more!
In the Luberon some churches or even some locals open up their homes to see their collections of santons. There is even a village that puts their Nativity santon scenes out in the streets for everyone to admire during a nice winter stroll!
January brings on the season of galettes and/or gateaux des rois. Originally eaten for Epiphany it has now become a whole month for these cakes. The galette is made with puff pastry and an almond filling called frangipane. The gateau is a brioche-style cake topped with candied fruits. We always joke about who is « Team galette » and who is « Team gateaux »! Each galette or gateau has a hidden fève (fava bean) in it so that when the cake is cut up and shared by friends or family, the person who chomps down on the fève becomes the King or Queen for the day! They even sell the cakes with a golden cardboard crown for the winner! The fève nowadays has been transformed into a little clay figurine hidden in the cake or the galette. With Apt, the main town here in the Luberon, being the self-proclaimed "World Capital of candied fruits", you get a lot of the gateaux des rois here with the delicious candied fruit on top... my favorite!
February has become the month of crêpes for the holiday of Chandeleur (40 days after Christmas). Again, it used to only be the 2nd of February that people ate crêpes but now it’s become the whole month! Can’t go wrong there!
Occasionally we'll even get snow here in Provence! It lasts for a few hours and then melts but it really does create a magic atmosphere!
Winter brings a bit more calm to this area and most people who live here year round are happy to have this time to relax and get their batteries charged for the Spring and Summer seasons!
It's also the perfect time to contact us to organize your trip here in 2024!! #provenceiscalling