Our family loves to keep one of the oldest Provençal traditions ever alive. It’s a pity that only a few families still do the Provençal version of the Yule log, known as the cacho-fio. It is a traditional and very moving ceremony because it stands for passing things down from the oldest to the youngest in the family.
Before Christmas Eve supper, our grandfather Henri Fabre, used to take the youngest of us into the barn to choose the biggest, most impressive log that would burn all night in the open fire place. In front of the hearth, the whole family would stand by and watch as we carried the log in with him and our grandfather would say aloud these ceremonial lines in Provençal:
Alègre, alègre ! Dièu nous alègre !
Calèndo vèn, tout vèn bèn !
Dièu nous fague la gràci de vèire l’an que vèn,
e se noun sian pas maï,
que noun fuguèn pas mèns !
The English translation would be something like:
Joy! God give us joy!
Christmas is coming and all is well!
By God’s grace, let us see in the new year,
And if we are not more,
Let us not be less.
Every Christmas Eve, by the fire, we keep up this Provençal tradition, and the emotion increases over the years as the family joins together deeply moved to watch our very youngest children take their turn...
Then we all sit at the table for the gros souper - the repas maigre (light meal) - which is on Christmas Eve in Provence, before going to midnight mass. Our grandmother used to prepare the traditional Provençal dishes several days beforehand: anchoïade (raw vegetables with anchovy sauce), cod with raïto (tomato purée, olives, capers and red wine sauce) and the 13 desserts...
With our mother and our aunts, we still prepare the same dishes today, carefully following our grandmother’s recipes...