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Tradition in Aix-en-Provence - Intrusion of the past into the present  
Traditions are stylised, institutionalised, or self-consciously glamorised, they become tourist fodder, interesting as diversion, but, alive, thanks largely to life-support systems. The most primitive, and pure, have succeeded in uniting pagan and Christian, pre-history and history, hobgoblins and gods, consciousness and the subconscious. One meets them every day, refraining to walk under ladders, or sit down at a table laid for thirteen.
And yet, this is where the fun begins. Provence is full of it. Thirteen desserts served on Christmas eve, thirteen places set at the table, one being reserved for the poor beggar (perhaps Jesus in disguise ?) the exuberant misbehaviour of youth during carnival, and solemn religious observances that express a world, society, culture, and family still struggling with fate, fortune, and forces that shake and shape the balance of a common destiny.
To the reading classes that hardy pioneer, Lawrence Wylie in Roussillon, and that devout ascetic, Peter Mayle near Lacoste (are not anthropologists simply frustrated novelists, or is it the other way round?) spent, as we know, "tough years" in Provence sitting in, or was it on, the pot, before lifting the lid and liberating the heady, sun-drenched aromas, the bouillon de culture, of the "warm south".
In the process, the village in the Vaucluse and the Luberon itself, lost, perhaps more than the tour operators, local economy, and estate agents gained. "Progress", say some, "rape", say others who see tatters of their soul up for sale on the tinsel market place of the media. Those who profess to take intelligent interest in "tout ce qui est humain" may be sure that we have the best reasons in the world for getting it all wrong, and , without prying, distorting mirrors, become a part of the problem.
The traditions of Provence are reflected in its spiritual, social, and economic infrastructure. We find them in the home, at the butcher’s, baker’s, markets, church, in village festivals, crèches, pastorales. And we find them, sometimes deep buried in the collective unconscious of a land too often invaded (and ravaged) by plague, by the Celts, Romans, Visigoths, Saracens, Franks, and torn apart by feudal rivalry and wars of religion. The confetti sprinkling that follows in no way covers ground that is as rich and profound as it is wide.


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