It Turns Out that the Donkey of Provence - l'Âne Provence - Le Bourriquet - is Special Indeed

Posted on November 03, 2015 | 0 Comments

We have always found Marcel Carbonel's pack donkeys to be very special. They are one of our favorite figures and are definitely more than cherished by our customers.

Carbonel provides us with three pack donkeys - the Donkey with baskets of fruit, the Donkey with sacks of flour, and the Donkey with fagots (bundles of wood). Shown here is the Donkey with Fagots in Size #3 - Click here to find them in Sizes #1 - 3.

Personally, our first experience with pack donkeys was in Morocco in the mid-1960s. Travelling in southern Morocco we would experience them in the mountains, traveling with their families, packed to the gills with all their possessions, young animals, and the youngest members of their families alike. We early learned to slow our pace to allow them to prevail on the road.  Although not taken by us nor in Morocco, this photo always brings back those wonderful memories.

Memories that come to mind as we wrap up your pack donkeys ever so carefully - knowing how much joy they will bring you!

It turns out the donkey of Provence is special to us, and ever so special to Provence.


They came close to dying out. But, the people of Provence have made certain that would not happen.

They were especially bred for strength to help shepherds with sheep herding and the seasonal migrations - transhumance. The earliest records of Shepherds of Provence using pack donkeys dates to the fifteenth century, particularly during the seasonal migrations between the low ground where the sheep over-winter and the high alpine pastures where the sheep spend the summer months.

The donkeys of Provence were selected for their solid bone structure for carrying heavy loads, their docile temperament and good legs to carry them along the shepherds' migratory paths. The donkeys are outfitted with pack saddles that carry the equipment and supplies needed by the shepherds along the journey.  

Modern transportation caused a sharp decline in the population of the Provence donkey (13,000 at the end of the 19th century, 2000 in 1956, and 330 in 1993. In December 1992 a breeder's association, the Association de l'Âne de Provence, was formed. They worked with the Haras National, in Languedoc-Roussillon to achieve recognition of the breed. In November 2002 the Provence donkey received the official recognition of the French ministry of agriculture. The current population is estimated at 1500. 

One can understand why they are an integral part of Provence heritage and thus, are important figures in the Marcel Carbonel creche. 

Enjoy our Marcel Carbonel Pinterest Board - Click here / and our Pinterest Board on Pack Donkeys - Click here

Posted in About Us, Carbonel Santons, French Christmas, Nativities, Provence Christmas

Miniatures - Putz - for your Christmas Village or Nativity Scene

Posted on October 31, 2015 | 0 Comments

We have added charming miniatures this year - perfect for use with your French Santons or German nativity scenes. These are just a few examples - baskets, wood, metal, copper, clay.

To find the miniatures and trees below, simply click on the images


They work well alongside the Carbonel accessories available for each size of Santons, and with the Erzgebirge Emil Helbig Workshop nativity figures and creche sets. 


The German verb putzen means to decorate and one commonly finds the word putz to describe miniatures for a Christmas Village or Nativity Scene. Putz, miniatures, accessories, whatever one calls them, they add a very special touch to your Christmas. The traditional nativity figures, a few larger accessories, a few miniatures, and a few trees -

create a tableau, small or large, that is special to you. In both Provence and Germany, each year families wait for the Christmas fairs during Advent to find new treasures to add to their nativities (just as we in America rejoice in adding new Christmas ornaments to our trees).

Enjoy all adds up to a bit of wonder!

To follow our Pinterest Board on Putz - Click here

Posted in Carbonel Santons, Christmas Traditions, Emil Helbig, Erzgebirge, French Christmas, German Christmas, German Folk Art, German Traditions, Nativities, Provence Christmas, Trees

New for 2015 - Carbonel Santons Horse - Cheval - Size #2

Posted on October 27, 2015 | 0 Comments

Every year the Marcel Carbonel Santons workshop in Marseille creates new Santons.

For 2015 we have a superb introduction to the nativity procession - a horse in the Elite / Size #2 size.          

A sturdy addition to the farm yard animals - enjoy adding him to your creche this year.  

Follow our Marcel Carbonel Santons Pinterest Board - Click here             


Posted in Carbonel Santons, French Christmas, Nativities, Provence Christmas

Creating Your Own Santons Village

Posted on December 10, 2014 | 0 Comments

At the November 2014 opening of an exhibition of thirty Christmas nativity scenes and creches from around the world at the University of Notre Dame, Rev. Johann G. Roten, S.M., Director of Research and Special Projects at the University of Dayton, Ohio, delivered a lecture entitled: “The Crèche: A Celebration of Christmas and Culture.”

Roten spoke of the fact that crèches illustrate the close relationship between culture and religion and that there are "three fundamental ways of looking at nativity traditions, which can be categorized as “mountain” (Latin origin), “landscape” (German tradition) or “village"..... 

The 'village' is found in crèches of the French tradition, especially those of the Provence region.... All inhabitants of the village... come to the manger...." The 'village is an expression of the global village, but also of theological harmony. "We have on the one hand great unity and on the other great diversity around the baby in the manger.”

He speaks, of course, of the Provençal tradition of the Santons' Creche, where the biblical figures (in biblical dress) are celebrated by villagers of all kinds (in the dress of 18th and 19th century southern France) - young and old, rich and poor, and from all walks of life.

The 'village' of the creche is celebrated not only by its diversity of the figures, but also by displaying them in a true 'village' scene. It is common for families to build their own Santons' dioramas and for Provençal villages and towns to build even larger ones that are displayed during the Advent season and even in their museums year round

The Carbonel Studios provide a schematic for creating a village with the larger size Santons (Size #3 - Grande) in the front and building up-hill with perspective, placing the smaller sizes (Size #1 -Cricket and Size Puce - Flea) further back.

Carbonel accessories - houses, wells, windmills, fountains, bridges, porticos, trees, etc. are all available for creating your display.


We have been collecting ideas on creating your own Santons - Nativity village on our My Growing Traditions' Pinterest Board on DIY Santons - Nativity - Dioramas. Enjoy! 


Posted in Carbonel Santons, Christmas Traditions, French Christmas, Nativities, Provence Christmas

The Shepherd's Fair, Istres, Provence, 19 November to 7 December 2014

Posted on November 24, 2014 | 0 Comments

Every year the town of Istres in Provence celebrates the Shepherd with a two week festival traditionally held in the warmth of late fall/early winter. Founded in 1964, the Shepherd's Fair is a feast of Provençal tradition. Thousands of people attend to enjoy everything pastoral: homage to the transhumance (the seasonal migration of livestock, and the people who tend them, between lowlands and adjacent mountains),

sheep dog trials, music, crafts, food, and a wonderful parade and closing ceremony. All are clearly in love with Provençal tradition, and especially the costumes.We truly enjoyed this video of last year's festival - it is well worth the watch and takes one back to the Provence of the world of Santons.  

We enjoyed seeing the "Santons" we are so familiar with:  especially the White horses of the Camargue, The Drummer (Tambourinaire), The Gardener, The Old Woman from Arles, the Women from Arles, the Shepherds, Sheep, and Goats.

Discovering the Festival and its celebration of the importance of the Shepherd in Provence, certainly made us pleased that we offer the Shepherd's Gift Set. The Shepherd Gift Sets are available in Sizes #1 (Cricket), #2 (Elite), and #3 (Grande) make a nice addition to your collection. 

Save money with each set, which includes the Shepherd, the sheep dog, a sheep, and a hand-shaved tree (Spanbaum) from the Christmas village of Germany, Seiffen. 


Posted in Carbonel Santons, French Christmas, Provence Christmas, Trees

Delightful 1998 Video of Marcel Carbonel (1911 - 2003)

Posted on November 15, 2014 | 0 Comments

We were so pleased to discover this video of Marcel Carbonel (1911-2003) filmed in 1998 that we had to share it with you. The video is in French, but we guarantee you will enjoy "visiting" with him - around Marseille and in the Carbonel Santons Atelier - Workshop. The video offers very special footage of the Carbonel creation of a Santon.


Carbonel created his first Santons in 1935. In 1942 he opened a workshop with his wife Clotilde in Marseille. In the beginning they employed one individual who specialized in creating the molds and two painters.  

In 1947 he was elected the President of the Union of Santons Craftsmen (a position he held for 21 years) and in 1959, with Jean Heritier, founded the Salon International de Santonniers in Arles. In 1961 he was awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France - The Best Worker of France

and in 1962 the Medal of National Merit. In 1973 the Carbonel Workshops received the award Best Workmen of France. In 1975 his grandson, Phillippe Renoux, then 15,

began an apprenticeship at the studio. Phillippe earned the gold medal at a regional exhibition of the Best Workman of France contest in 1982 and it was Phillippe who in 1993 would cement the continuity of the family Workshop. 

The Marcel Carbonel Workshops holds more than 700 different Santons molds - the largest collection of Santons in Provence. In 2000 the Workshop was selected by the French Embassy to the Vatican, Rome to represent France in a contest of the "100 Most Beautiful Cribs in the World." The Carbonel Workshops was awarded the Silver Medal. In 2003 Marcel Carbonel was named Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur. In 2007 the Workshops was named an Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (a French Living Heritage Establishment) for the excellence of their traditional skills.

Simply stated the Marcel Carbonel Workshop is a living heritage and they are the Premier creator of Santons. 

You may enjoy following our Marcel Carbonel Santons board on Pinterest.

Posted in Carbonel Santons, French Christmas, Provence Christmas

New for 2014 - Carbonel Santons Octopus Fisherman - Pécheur au poulpe - Size #2

Posted on November 04, 2014 | 0 Comments

Every year the Marcel Carbonel Santons workshop in Marseille creates new Santons. 2014 brings a charming Octopus Fisherman - Pécheur au poulpe - Size #2 - the Elite size. 

The Octopus Fisherman is one of many Carbonel Fishermen. They make many anglers and fishermen with nets, but craft the Octopus Fisherman only in two sizes: the new one, in Size #2, and the other in Size #3, the Grande Size, seen here in this photograph of the finished Santon next to one newly molded, but yet to be fired or painted.

The Fisherman is number 16 on the list of the top 20 Essential Santons for a Provençal CrecheHe is a pivotal figure in Provence, whether he works with his nets in the sea, or, as an angler, casting his pole into a local stream. As a Santon, his origin is in the early nativity plays and creche-parlant. Foremost, he is a classic figure of the Port of Marseille and its very important fishing trade of the Mediterranean. 

An integral part of Marseille's heritage, the Fish Market (Marché aux Poissons) is held on the quai des Belges on the Old Port. It is small, but ever so lively (the outspoken Fishwife being apocraphyl) 

 - buy the catch of the day fresh off the boat and have it weighed and cleaned for you while you wait. This is where the locals buy their fish for the day's bouillabaisse.  


Bouillabaisse (click here for a traditional Marseille Bouillabaisse recipe) is all about that catch of the day. The word bouillabaisse comes from "the Provençal Occitan word bolhabaissa, a compound that consists of the two verbs bolhir (to boil) and abaissar (to reduce heat, i.e., simmer). Bouillabaisse originally was a stew made by Marseille fishermen using the bony rockfish which they were unable to sell to restaurants or markets. There are at least three kinds of fish in a traditional bouillabaisse: typically red rascasse (Scorpaena scrofa); sea robin (fr: grondin); and European conger (fr: congre). It can also include gilt-head bream (fr: dorade); turbot; monkfish (fr: lotte or baudroie); mullet; or European hake (fr: merlan). It usually also includes shellfish and other seafood such as sea urchins (fr: oursins), mussels (fr: moules); velvet crabs (fr: étrilles); spider crab (fr: araignées de mer) or octopus." - Wikipedia

Octopus may be last on the Bouillabaisse fish list, but it is certain that it is not the least - one would imagine that when it was available it was considered a must!


Posted in Carbonel Santons, Provence Christmas