Once upon a time
there was a nativity scene

Christmas is an exciting time of the year in Provence. The festivities begin at the end of November with the santon markets, the best known of which is the one held in Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume. Nativity scenes are important because they are shared from generation to generation.


Provence Verte & Verdon is no exception to the tradition. Here you’ll find santon makers and more rarely, a crecheur (a crib maker). Roger Nègre comes from Trest and like many Provencal natives, one of his passions as a child was creating a nativity scene. It was something important that he shared with his mother – and he passed it on and shared it with his own children. He says he is neither a handyman nor is he known for his patience, so nothing predisposed him to be a crib maker. But it’s only one small step from being a child to now being a grandfather. When asked by his 8 year old grandson he made his first crib. Somewhat at a loss to start with but nevertheless determined not to disappoint the blonde-headed boy, he took a model he had in his garage, devised a plan and the adventure began. His first creation was made from materials he found in nature as well as other more traditional ones. Acquiring a taste for the work, he also built other parts of the crib such as small houses. A retired firefighter friend - and experienced crib enthusiast - was amazed by the quality of his work. He bought everything Roger had made and asked him to persevere and "get into the business". An appointment was made to meet with the demanding public at the Saint Maximin la Sainte Baume santons fair. And what a great success! The adventure began. Today, every family outing is a source of inspiration for new creations and new materials. So, from his early work to the present day, a complete decor comes to life in Roger's hands. Similarly, from producing identical models, he has also moved on to producing personalised creations that will embellish existing nativity scenes with houses, cafés or farmhouses that are reproductions of real places.

Likewise, the materials he uses have evolved somewhat, such as the walls, today not made of wood and plaster but of extruded polystyrene, making the creations considerably lighter. Prices range from €10 to €120 and in no way reflect the real value of the pieces. Judge for yourself: it takes about 6 hours to make the roof of a cowshed (small model)!

Every year there’s something new. For 2021, Roger is thinking of designing a hilltop village. A crib decoration in a single block. Once the festive period is over, Roger the crib maker goes back to work as if to stay in the mood until April, then he rests until the end of the summer. That's the theory, because as you can imagine, a little something will awaken his creative juices: a walk, a house, a landscape. So if one day you happen across him as you round the bend in a vineyard or an olive grove, stop and watch because this man is preparing next year’s Christmas magic for you...


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To see and purchase Roger's work, please phone 06 70 60 88 00