Noël is a time to spread good cheer, to help others, and to… SHOP. Sure, Noël is really about the cheer and the kindness, but let’s be réal… the best marchés appear at this time, too, so, SHOP away!
Aix doesn’t hold the title of “best and biggest marchés in France”, but it hosts some pretty damn good marchés during the holidays.
First, there’s le Marché de Noël, or the Christmas Market, which is held on the Cours Mirabeau.
This year (2015), le Marché de Noël was from 18 Novembre until 27 Décembre.
It’s always exciting when the city starts to setup for the le Marché de Noël because that means that churros, pompe à l’huile, and vin chaud, or mulled wine, will arrive soon! It takes the city about a week to setup the chalets along le Cours Mirabeau, but once it’s finished, le Cours becomes a hoppin’ place. They even close off the street to automobiles!
At the same time le Marché de Noël opens, le Foire aux Santons, or Santons’ Market, is in session.
Le Foire aux Santons contains… you guessed it: Santons!
Santons are hand-crafted figurines made of clay. They’re known to be expensive; however, they can be found in nearly every Aixois’ household. For a figurine about 2 inches, it’s about 12 euros. The traditional Aixois(es) have a crèche, or Nativity scene, of Santons despite their religious beliefs. Due to the decline of Christianisme in France (see: Christianisme: Combing the Cliffs of Clarté), the crèche has become more of a tradition rather than a religious emblem.The santons are magnifique – I admire the creators as they put so much effort and detail into each santon. Last year, I bought a small one for mamie, or my grandma, for Noël.
Le Marché de Noël and le Foire aux Santons were in session everyday from 10:00-20:00 (8:00pm). However, these two marchés are not the only marchés, non, there are several other types of marchés that take place throughout Décembre: le Marché International des Villes Jumelles (the International Twin Cities’ Market), le Marché d’Huile d’Olive (the Olive Oil Market), and le Marché des 13 Desserts.
Le Marché International des Villes Jumelles:
This year, le Marché des Villes Jumelles, was from 2 Décembre – 6 Décembre. This marché is différent from other marchés in that it isn’t French. In fact, it contains trinkets from sister cities with Aix.
The cities represented include:
- Pécs, Hongrie
- Carthage, Tunisie
- Baalbeck, Liban
- Kumamoto, Japon
- Tübingen, Allemagne (Germany)
- Pérouse, Italie
- Ashkelon, Israël
There’s also a “food tent” to satisfy your immediate hunger needs.
Le Marché d’Huile d’Olive (aka: La Fête de l’Huile d’Olive):
Le Marché d’Huile d’Olive was from 14 Décembre – 15 Décembre (2015).
This marché contains exactly what its title describes: olive oil.
I had never seen so much l’huile d’olive in one place…
And it’s not just bottles of the stuff, though the small bottles are just too cute!
There’s chocolat de l’huile d’olive…
mini oliviers (olive trees)…
la Pompe à l’huile (“oil pump” – a cake made of olive oil, fleur d’orange, flour, and sugar)…
and Christmas flower arrangements made from oliviers!
One can also find mulled wine jelly (which has nothing to do with l’huile d’olive, but is still just as cool)!
Le Marché de 13 Desserts:
In the south of France, there’s the 13 Desserts, which refers to Jesus and the 12 disciples at the Last Supper:
- La pompe à l’huile représente the bread that Jesus broke and served (FYI: the French don’t cut this bread with a knife; they use their hands to break the bread like Jesus did as it’s told in the Bible)
- *Les noix ou noisettes (walnuts or hazelnuts) représentent the Augustins
- *Les amandes (almonds) représentent the Carmélites
- *Les figues sèches (dried figs) représentent the Franciscains
- *Les raisins secs (raisins) représentent des the Dominicains
- Le nougat noir et le nougat blanc représentent good and evil
- Les dattes représentent Christ who came from the East
- Les calissons d’Aix représentent Aix-en-Provence and the south of France
- La pâte de coing (quince cheese) (ou candied fruit)
- Le melon de Noël (green melon) représentent Noël
- Les oranges (ou les mandarines) représentent the fruit of the saison
- Les pommes (apples)
- Les poires (pears)
*These nuts and dried fruit représentent the 4 mendiants because the food matches the colors of the monks’ habits.
All of these marchés are annual. So, be sure to check them out next Noël! ♦