Saturday, December 27, 2014

Christmas Eve in St. Remy de Provence

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe joined our French friends again this year for Christmas. They had chosen St. Remy de Provence as our destination, so we were happy to go to the village famous because Van Gogh had admitted himself to an asylum in the village and stayed there for a year near the end of the 19th century.

We stayed at a lovely “gîte” (vacation apartment) in a renovated old home at the edge of the town where one could see Mt. Ventoux as well as “les Alpilles” – a part of the Luberon mountain range.

On Christmas Eve, we went to the cathedral in St. Remy for the midnight mass service. The service began before 11:00 PM when women and men wearing traditional costumes handed out candles to all who had assembled at the church. 

Once the candles were lit, there was a procession through the old part of the town ending inside the cathedral where the mass was held.

(There is a humorous story about Christmas midnight mass written by Alphonse Daudet called “Les Trois Messes Basses” (the three low masses) about a priest who was so much more interested in the meal at the end of the service that he raced through the liturgy so that he could enjoy the wonderful meal planned for the end of the service. In doing so, he committed the sin of gluttony – le péché de gourmandise.)

The mass we attended was no parallel. The service was reverent and included singing and a procession around the interior of the cathedral with live sheep (The sheep were provided by the son of the owner of the “gîte” where we stayed.) At the end of the mass, a child dressed in traditional garb took the baby Jesus figurine from its stand in front of the altar and placed it in the stable (crèche).


  1. The fact that Mark Sullivan attended a midnight mass surely gives testimony to his friendship. Surely the angels did rejoice that evening.

  2. Great photos Mark and what a wonderful Christmas experience. Sounds like after three weeks you're all settled back into the French routine. Have a wonderful new year and keep posting so we can live through you and Ellen vicariously.