Even in the winter, the South of France is a great destination. Just as in the summer months, there are a lot of events and festivals to enjoy. Montpellier has a name for this period of year: “Hiveractif”. And they sure are active during the winter season! I was in town to check out “Les Hivernales” – Montpellier’s Christmas market. From the end of November until right after Christmas, the Esplanade Charles de Gaulle transforms into a winter wonderland.
Place de la Comédie
The Christmas fun begins in the Place de la Comédie, where you can swirl around in a bauble on a giant Christmas tree, right in front of the theatre. A little bit further down into the square, there is a huge illuminated globe. You can’t miss it! This Christmas landmark lets everyone know that Les Hivernales have finally arrived in town. The Christmas globe has reached legendary status over the years.
White mulled wine
When I finally arrived at the Christmas market, I got myself a soothing mulled wine. Here in the South of France, you can find a white version of the traditional ‘vin chaud’. Apparently, this white mulled wine was already very popular in the 12th century in Montpellier; which was an important trading town for all kinds of herbs and spices back then.
As I explored the rest of the Christmas market, I, of course, admired the Montpellier Crèche with its traditional nativity scene filled with hand-made figures. Wait… did I just spot a pooping man?! Yep, if you look closely, you will see a man with his trousers around his knees producing a number 2. Might seem like an odd choice, right in the middle of the nativity scene. But this man, called Caganer, is part of the Catalan tradition and is, in fact, fertilising the earth. Right. Of course!
Although Montpellier wasn’t the first Christmas market I visited this year (see previous post here), I still found some original gifts in the chalets full of creative and local products. Like a really cool mechanical 3D puzzle from Ugears for my oldest son. And for my sister-in-law, I bought an intriguing moisturiser based on snail slime. Mission ‘Christmas presents’ almost complete!