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The James T. Callow Folklore Archive

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French Nativity Scene

The Nativity Scene used in the French culture are called
Santons. The santons are clay figures made by artisans. Some are
colorfully painted, while others are left in the natural clay
state. French families collect these Santons and display them
during the Christmas Season. The central figures represent the
nativity scene including, the baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph, shepherd,
the three Kings, and the traditional animals such as sheep, cows
and camels. In addition, many other figures represent the typical
townspeople and their occupations as they were in the nineteenth
century in Southern France.

Submitter comment: The first time Cynthia went to France, it was to study at the
University of Nice. This is where she discovered the custom of
the Santon. Since she teaches a French class at Western Michigan
University, she passes this French tradition on to the students
showing off her collection. Each time she returns to Nice, she
buys another figurine in order to expand her collection. At the
present time, she has about sixty figures in her collection.

Where learned: FRANCE ; Nice

Subject headings: ART CRAFT ARCHITECTURE -- Clay
ART CRAFT ARCHITECTURE -- Finished Product

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