The holiday season is undeniably a cheerful and joyful time of the year, and the perfect opportunity to go with your loved ones on a wonderful trip that will definitely make this Christmas one to be remember to many to come. Marseille, with its beautifully mild weather welcoming streets, make for a perfect place to spend the most magical time of the year. The trains of Renfe-SNCF en Cooperatión take you to Marseille in just a few hours from Spain!

Foire des Santonniers

Santons, or, in English, “little saints”, are adorable small hand-painted clay dolls, handmade by Santonniers in the Provence region of France. The first santons date back to the second half of the 18th century during the French Revolution, the first ones having been made by one of Marseille’s own artisans. Traditionally, the figurines represented very important characters in the society: featuring The Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph, the shepherds, animals and representations of men and women of different trades, who were then all set up in a beautifully charming model of a Provencal village.  These are very treasured items in families, and get passed down along the generations, from parents to children, and are brought out to show off every year during this most magical time.
Handamde different santons

This fair is said to have its origin over 200 years ago, in 1803, when, after the end French Revolution, a mere handful of the original santonniers came together to sell the fruits of their incredible talent to the people. Today the Aubagne Santon Fair in Marseille attracts hundreds of people in December every year, joining the oldest families of santon makers, selling santon of all shapes and kinds, as well as cribs and other props to include in the model villages. So, this year, if you happen to time your visit to the stunning city of Marseille between the 14th of November and the 31st of December, be sure to pass by the Vieux Port and admire the handiwork of these incredible artisans and artists - and pick up the perfect gift for you to take back home as christmas souvenirs for those waiting for you back home! If you’re looking for other local products to guy as gifts and souvenirs for your friends and family, read here!

La Fête de la Sainte Barbe

La Fête de Sainte Barbe, or Saint Barbaras Feast, is celebrated in the Provence region of France every December, as a fun and beloved Christmas tradition. Every year, 20 days before Christmas, on the 4th of December, families all over Marseille and the French Provence, after having bought seed from the local shops, plant wheat, or sometimes lentil seeds, in 3 little plates with damp cotton, and place them around the house. The three plates are made to represent the Holy Trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and can be seen all over the city in shop windows and family windowsills.

Seeds grown in plates with cotton

Come Christmas Eve, the wheat or lentils will have grown, and 2 red ribbons are tied around each plate, and they are placed on the dinner table during the Great Super - more commonly known as Christmas Dinner. According to tradition, if, by Christmas Day, the wheat has grown well, then the crop and harvest the following year will be bountiful and generous - the higher and faster it grows, the better the sign. There is even a very common saying in Provence, “Quand lou blad vèn bèn, tout vèn bèn”, meaning “When the wheat goes well, everything goes well”. Nowadays, after Christmas Day, the wheat is used to decorate and represent the fields in the Santon Village representations and Nativity scenes.

Marseille Christmas Market

Marseille's Christmas market

There is little argument that visiting invitingly cozy Christmas markets on a cold winter’s day, wrapped in warm coats in big scarves, may very well be one of the nicest parts of the winter and holiday season. The Marché de Noel is a brilliant place to spend your days during your winter escapade to the marvelous Marseille. Taking place every day during November and December, from 10am to 7pm at the Vieux Port, it will guarantee you a day of fun, wonder and christmas spirit. With dozens of sellers providing trinkets, souvenirs and delicious treats of all kinds, this charming market is a great way to spend the day (or more than one!), be it with family, children, friends, or your significant other. Be it the deliciously smelling christmas treats, the scrumptious mulled wine or watching incredibly talented craftsmen selling anything from traditional Marseille scented soaps, wooden toys, ceramics, this market has something for everybody.

So pack up those wooly scarves and cozy sweaters, along with your Christmas stockings and red rudolph noses, and book your Renfe-SNCF en Coopération tickets today to spend your Christmas in Marseille!

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