Guest PostInspireProvencal History & Traditions

The Circuit des Crèches Lucéram Holiday Tradition

Nestled in the Alpes-Maritimes above the Cote d’ Azur is the medieval village of Lucéram. One day before Christmas, my friend decided to take me on a tour of the “Circuit des Crèches.” We drove high up the winding roads to the alpine region above the sea.

Lucéram, circuit des crèches

@Côte d’Azur France/ Georges VERAN

Circuit des Creches

While we were driving, Mireille began to tell me about the “Circuit des Crèches.” In the village of Luceram during the season of Noel, the inhabitants of the town create 400 nativity scenes that celebrate the birth of Christ. The creches in French is the bed of Baby Jesus. The manger is the feeder for the sheep, goats, or cows. The crèche has images of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Shepards, animals, and the Three Wise Men. But in Provence, which is famous for their Santons {little saints}, you could see a different type of nativity scenes. There would be the village baker, beekeeper, fisherman, and more of the region’s villagers.

If you want to visit Lucéram for Circuit des Crèches, the festivities usually start around December 6 and run through mid-January.

Lucéram Alpes-Maritimes

@Côte d’Azur France

A Drive in the Alpes-Maritimes

We drove by the Paillon River, and in this mountainous region, the elevations range from 1300-5100 feet. There are also three significant peaks in Pointe de Faulio, Cime de Peira Cava, and Mont Escobar. The village has two mountain streams that went through the town. They flow down the mountain and join with the Paillon River that moves on into the Mediterranean Sea. Cows were grazing in the fields. The cows wear bells around their neck, which created melodious music throughout the mountains.

My friend began to tell me about a silver statue of Saint Marguerite that was riding a dragon. This statue was one of the sacred artifacts in the Church of Saint Marguerite, located at the peak of the village. I thought to myself, the high mountain ridges and two mountain streams that ran through the town were sure signs we were driving along the ley-lines. The saint and dragon statue also gave me a clue we were following the land’s dragon lines associated with ley of the land.

Lucéram is about a half an hour ride north from Nice. We arrived at the village, parked the car, and collected a village map with each of the creche locations. Next to the parking lot, there was a lavoir. This was the place where village women once washed the families’ clothing and gossiped with their neighbours. But today, there was a small nativity placed in a fishbowl at the bottom of the lavoir.

Lucéram’s History

The Romans once occupied the village of Lucéram. Roman coins and artifacts have been found in the village cemetery. Most likely, the Roman temples also were there with the honoring of the Roman Gods and Goddess.

The first recorded history of Lucéram was in 1057. During the Middle Ages, it was part of the Salt Road trading route. The Count of Provence was once the land baron of Lucéram, but the village gained its independence in 1272.

Lucéram, circuit des crèches

@Côte d’Azur France/ Georges VERAN

Exploring Lucéram

We made our way up the narrow winding streets of the village. I became like a child; for every nook and corner, there seemed to be another nativity scene created by a local family or store. I was in awe of the different creative expressions that each crèche held. There was one crèche placed in the hole of an ancient stonewall. Another nativity was hung from a basket of flowers above the street.

Lucéram, circuit des crèches

@Côte d’Azur France/ Georges VERAN

Many of the streets were cobblestone with passages. We passed through medieval archways as we slowly climbed up into the heart of Lucéram. There were so many crèches; each was an individual expression of creativity. There was one made from a beehive and another from iron blacksmith tools. I saw a creche made of wool, olive wood, clay, loaves of bread, wine jugs, even a nativity made from beeswax. It was a fantastic experience that was filled with the True Spirit of Christmas.

The Saints of Lucéram

We finally arrived at the peak of the village where the Church of St. Marguerite. The view was worth the climb, for you could see the winding streets, the housetops, and the surrounding mountain ridges. The air was cold and crisp and clean to breathe.
St. Marguerite is a Roman Gothic Church with a Baroque interior. The Baroque style churches were once popular in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur area. We entered the church filled with marble and gilded gold that is typical of the Baroque style. The two of the leading saints of the church are St. Marguerite and St. Rosalie. If the truth would be told, both of these saints may not have ever existed.

Lucéram, circuit des crèches

@Côte d’Azur France/ Georges VERAN

The story of Saint Rosalie comes from Palermo, Italy. The city had been stricken with the plague, and St. Rosalie revealed herself to a sick woman in a vision. Some versions of the legend say it was a hunter or a soap maker. St. Rosalie was a noblewoman. She left a life of riches and lived as a hermit in a cave in the 1100s. She told through a vision where to find her bones. They found her bones at the mouth of a cave on Mount Pellegrino. Palermo’s people had a holy procession of Rosalie’s bones, and it stopped the plague in 1625.

Saint Rosalie was not known until the appearance of the vision. She is invoked for curing the plague, and she most likely came to Provence when the plague became a big problem. Some believe that the real roots of Saint Rosalie are the Roman Goddess “Venus Rosalia, “whose symbol was the Holy Rose is more the truth of this Catholic Saint. Nevertheless, Goddess or Saint the invoking of her stopped the plague, which really matters.

Lucéram, circuit des crèches

@Côte d’Azur France/ Georges VERAN

Legends and Festivals

There was a small glass museum at the church’s side where the St. Marguerite and the dragon were displayed. There are several legends of Saint Marguerite, and her historical existence may also be dubious.

She was a daughter of a pagan priest of Antioch. She renounced her father’s faith and went to live in the hills with a woman shepherd, who was Christian. The Roman Governor Olybrius wanted to marry her, and when she refused, he tortured her and threw her in prison. A dragon appeared to her in jail, and she killed the dragon by making the sign of the cross.

There are several different legends and titles given to St. Marguerite. She is called Margaret-Pelagia Marina, the name of Aphrodite Marina, the Pearl of the Sea. Marga’s name comes from the Sanskrit work The Way or The Gate, representing the female vagina. The hidden symbol of St. Marguerite riding the dragon represents the rising of one’s sexual energy that has been transformed into spiritual awakening.

The Catholic Church created a doctrine that separated sex and spirituality. The dragon, serpent, and sexuality were associated with evil rather than seeing this same creative energy as a spiritual source of power.

Saint Marguerite is invoked against sterility; if you may remember, the dragon energies bring fertility to the land and women. People prayed to her for safe childbirth, a nursing mother who lost their milk, and kidney disease. The kidneys work with the body’s water element, which is also ruled by the ancient dragon energy. Even though the arc -types were changed because of Church doctrine, the truth still exists if one can look deeper beyond history layers.

The Feast of Sainte Marguerite is July 20, the village celebrates, and the Feast of Saint Rosalie September 6.

Lucéram, circuit des crèches

@Côte d’Azur France/ Georges VERAN

My Holiday Tradition

I have celebrated the Christmas creche tradition of Medieval Europe for many years now. Each year, wherever I am, I craft a simple manger from willow I have cut from nature and create a crib for the baby Christ. Each day I fill the empty crib with different herbs I have gathered. These herbs were known as Holy Hay or Cradle Grasses during the time of Medieval Europe. People of this time did not know how to read or write, but they knew the ways of nature and all the field’s flowers. Many of the herbs are attached to the Christ Child or Saints’ stories and legends to help teach people to understand the Ways of Christ.

The Cradle Grass tradition is almost forgotten now and not celebrated here in Europe as in ancient times. I am a holder of this tradition. I like to share this tradition’s beauty that it is not forgotten.

Saint Francis of Assisi

The first creche celebrated in Europe began with Saint Francis of Assisi in Greccio in Italy. This little village is perched up high on a rugged rock cliff hovering over the valley below. Saint Francis and his brothers were staying in the town at the time. Saint Francis, right before Christmas, decided to re-enact the birth of Christ. But he needed the right stage to recreate this Holy Event. But Francis was a poor man without the means to create such a Divine Drama. So a rich man who lived in the village named John Veltri donated his stable.

The stable was built right into the side of the cliff. Senor Veltri also allowed Francis to use his manger and his cows, goats, and sheep. The manger was filled with the sweetest herbs. The stable animals all quietly gathered around Francis, his brothers, and the people of the village. Francis began to pray to hold his hands out to the manger, asking the Christ Child’s spirit to come to this Sacred Gathering. Suddenly, the stable was filled with light, and people had visions of St. Francis holding the Baby Jesus. Francis’ pure heart and heartfelt prayers were answered, and the Presence of the Christ Child entered the stable. A Healings took place after the Holy Hay was fed to the animals. It was said that sick animals were made healthy again.

Lucéram, circuit des crèches

@Côte d’Azur France/ Georges VERAN

Holiday Traditions

Even though St. Francis of Assisi created the first Christmas creche, each country seemed to develop its own creche customs. A beautiful tradition started here in France during the Medieval Days. They would take a little piece of hay during advent and make a prayer as they held the straws. Then they placed the grass into the manger. They would tell the children that they were softening the bed for Baby Jesus. If you take one moment to contemplate this simple tradition, there are four weeks of advent and 7 days in one week. This means a person who did this every day before Christmas would have 28 days of prayers in the crèche. A family of three also doing this with you would 94 prayers in the cradle before Christmas. I would call a simple spiritual practice that could bring back the Christmas’s Spirit into the Advent Season.

Cradle Grasses

The plants of this tradition were known as Cradle Grasses and are called Holy Hay. Cradlewort, you might know as common cooking thyme. But it was the wild thyme that would be gathered and saved during the spring for the Christmas Creche. It grows wild all over the South of France and Italy. You can see beautiful pink splashes of colour among the Southern climate’s rugged terrain, and you can understand why impressionist artists love to paint the landscape of this region.

The word wort is the old English name for the word herb. Wild thyme has an unforgettable fragrance that smells like medicine. Thyme is associated with the elves and the fairies (Les Fees in French) of the woods and meadows. It is said if you stand on a patch of wild thyme in the middle of a circle of fairy-ring mushrooms on a full moon night, you will have the power to see through the veil into the world of the fairies.

There was a point in time years ago I was researching all the plants and their old Medieval European names. I learned many of the flower names are connected to the Virgin Mary and the Holy Hay tradition. My head was full of words like Our Lady’s Slippers, Mary’s Gloves( Foxgloves), Mary’s Thistle (Milk Thistle), the Herbe de la Trinite (Pansy), or Holy Spirit Root (Angelica). I studied and researched and dug deep into old books and the Latin names to uncover historical fragments. This became my passion and what I enjoy doing in my spare time.

This tradition was recreated year after year in many cities and towns of Old Europe. Master Craftsmen would sculpt the Holy family all year long for the village creche. Master Herbalists would save the best herbs picked during the season to place in the manger for Christmas Day.

Virgin Mary and Nature

Looking at a Medieval image of the Virgin Mary, you would think she was Mother Nature herself. Her hands wore foxglove blossoms referred to as Our Ladies Gloves. The yellow toad-flax ( Virgin Flax) was her flax for spinning her cloth. The big leaf of Colcasia became her cape when she wasn’t wearing Lady’s mantle. The yellow flowers of Damascenicum Nothum became Mary’s shoes, but she also had a change of footwear because she was known to wear common Birdfoot trefoil or Monkshood for her slippers. Wherever the Blessed Mother step, she left behind as her footprints Columbine flowers.

Honeysuckle tendrils were her fingers, and Maiden Hair fern was her hair. She combed her hair with our Lady’s comb, also known as teasle weed that once was the Goddess Venus’s comb.

Impatient flowers became her eardrops, and Fushia buds became her earrings. Canterbury bells were her nightcap, and wood anemone became her petticoat. The common white bindweed became her drinking glass.

You can see that Mother Nature clothed the very body of the Blessed Mother. The Sacred Flora of The Blessed Mother is a way for us to view Nature as Sacred and how important we see the Sacredness of this Earth and the precious gift of nature.

May you enjoy this rich tradition, and may it warm your heart each day until Christmas

Raylene Abbott

Author’s Bio

Based in the United States, author Raylene Abbott’s work surrounds spiritual training with mentors from Native American and other sacred backgrounds. Her studies of the Black Madonna began in 1992 and eventually led to a lengthy stay in France where she traced religious pilgrimage routes. In 2014, she discovered her father’s bloodline led to the Rose Line and the Merovingian Kings of France. Despite her challenge with severe dyslexia, Raylene is an international author with six (6) published books. Read more about her intriguing background and connection to Mother Nature here.

Books by Raylene Abbott

To order a copy of these books, please click on the book cover images or titles. Note: if you purchase a book via these links, we receive a small commission that does not impact the price that you pay. Thank you in advance for supporting the work we do to maintain Perfectly Provence.

A Mystic’s Journey to the Sacred Sites of France

There are over 350 Black Madonnas in France. Beyond the esoteric secrets, the Sacred Sites of France still hold ancient power to answer prayers and heal any sincere pilgrim. The proper approach to a sacred site is the key that can decode the secrets. Every Sacred Site has its history and vibration. This book will help us understand both the vibrations and the ley lines of the lands.

The Hidden Magdalene in The Tarot de Marseille

This book provides the reader with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the Tarot of Marseille. Discover the Tarot’s history and the rich symbolic significance of the Magdalene heresy embedded into its images. This secret heresy relates to the recognition of Mary Magdalene as the wife of Jesus Christ. The book sheds light on the need to balance the Divine Feminine and Divine Masculine in our world.

L’émergence de La Femme Divine


Please share this with friends and family.

All rights reserved. Perfectly Provence articles and other content may not be published, broadcast, rewritten (including translations into other languages) or redistributed without written permission. For usage information, please contact us.
Syndication Information
Affiliate Information
As an Amazon Associate, this website earns from qualifying purchases. Some recipes, posts and pages may have affiliate links. If you purchase via these links, we receive a small commission that does not impact your price. Thank you in advance for supporting our work to maintain Perfectly Provence.
Previous post

The 5 Best Films Set in Provence

Next post

Festive Christmas Punch Recipe

Guest Post

No Comment

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.