Friday, March 7, 2014
Santons are literally “little saints”.
They’re figurines that visit many traditional French Nativity displays. As a matter of fact, it makes sense for us to add santons to our home Nativity, as well.
A few years ago, my husband and I enjoyed visiting Les Baux, in
One of the town’s cottage industries is the making and selling of santons. This industry involves a tradition of creating little saints figurines, crafted to resemble familiar people whose purposes are to add significant community individuals to la crèche, or the traditional Holy Nativity. In Les Baux, santons are made to honor nearly every profession or trade imaginable. Occupations like butchers, bakers, candlestick makers and dozens of other images are available.
Some families display their santons throughout the year.
Santons enrich the Nativity because they add a particular emotion or point of view to the scene depicting the birth of Jesus. For example, a candle maker might represent “Christ the Light of the World”.
Santons are a tradition in southern
Barbara Beck reports in St. Anthony’s Messenger of evidence that santons existed in the 13th century France. They were sold in communities located along the banks of the
Every Nativity scene begins with the Holy Family. Therefore, the statues of the Virgin Mary,
Although santons were not traditional in my husband’s Franco-American family, we’ve adopted the tradition because they add another meaningful layer to the Nativity.
Santons became a family tradition after we saw them displayed in Nativity scenes in different Franco-American sanctuaries.
Children are particularly drawn to santons because they’re easily handled and can be moved around to help tell the story of the Nativity. Additionally, santons can be any figurine, not necessarily those made in
Visiting Les Baux in
Our family’s Nativity santons represent our children, grandchildren and departed parents. We’ve designated them as such by adapting figurines to match those of la crèche on display.
Information about la crèche and traditions about the Nativity are at the site Friends of the Creche http://www.friendsofthecreche.org/about/Tweet
Juliana L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.
Juliana and her husband Richard live in Topsham ME. Feel free to contact her at Juliana@mainewriter.com.