The Priest of Cucugnan

Programming / to stage.

It’s a very strange Christmas day coming up, so my story of the day will also be a little strange – and dedicated to Christmas Eve.

Beware, you are entering the Christian world, the world of the Old Times, all full of magic and mystery, a world where a star guides you to the Child and where Mary is the mother who reconciles us with all mothers.

You all know the story of Christmas, this very young couple who have been on the road for days, with Mary in her last moments of pregnancy, so sweet and so small perched on her little donkey, and Joseph at her side, the man who is not the father but who will always be the one who protects the mother and the child. The arrival in the village, with this great cold wind that sweeps so hard in winter our peeled hills of the Mediterranean countries. The stable, the donkey and the ox blowing on the child born in the straw – normally the story stops, we will find them again for the arrival of the three Kings.
Not in France.

We have added the story of the Santons of Provence.
Do you know them?
They are the people of the village who, warned by Grace, abandoned everything that night to go and visit the child, his mother and the great Joseph who watches over the treasures of his life.
They all came: the fishmonger with her fresh fish, the tambourinaïr (this is a provencal word) – the one who plays the tambourine of Provence – the delightful one who will spend the night singing that the world is beautiful and that childhood is splendid – the blacksmith, the priest, the washerwoman, the carpenter, the little shepherd, the ploughman, the weaver, all went up to see the child – and are immortalized in the form of figurines – and every December 24th, in Provence, they are placed on their way to the crèche. I will tell you more about all of them tomorrow – the Santons have their own story, and it is only told on Christmas Day.

From the Santons and their village, it was easy to tell how the small villages of our region celebrated Christmas.

So, the story I would so much like to see on a stage is set in France, in Provence.

A few centuries ago, in homage to Jesus, in the small village of Cucugnan which really exists – but not quite in Provence – the whole village was busy preparing for the feast.
It was everyone’s feast: the houses were open, no poor, no outcasts, no isolated people that day. It was the day of sharing.
I knew these village Christmases in my little village in Algeria – where we piously and joyfully celebrated the feasts of all the believers, and above all, all together.

Castle of Queribus Cucugnan – South of France

In Cucugnan, that year was going to be extraordinary: the harvests had been splendid, we were able to offer each other delicious dishes and beautiful earthenware plates as we do at home. All day long on December 24th, the village was full of the smells of rotisseries, turkeys gently spinning on the spit, capons stuffed with chestnuts and small mushrooms, breads made with all kinds of herbs, Provençal fougasses, each cook did her best to make the dish of her year to give to the village.
The children had set up the huge table that would bring them all together.
The young girls were in a hurry to repair the beautiful linens that would adorn the tablecloths and napkins.
The men watched over the meat – preparing the winter bonfires that would keep them all warm despite the cold night ahead.
The priest of Cucugnan was a good man. He walked through his village with tears in his eyes as he watched all his faithful united in preparation for the feast of little Jesus.
He watched the wines being decanted into crystal carafes, and the wine took on an air of joy and promise. He was intoxicated by the smells of grilled meat. He admired the little pies that are so easily eaten. He was moved by the beautifully decorated pastries –

Don’t you think it’s a good start to my story? It’s almost too good.

Actually, yes, it was too beautiful.
I don’t know how Christmas is celebrated in your country – in France, for a very long time, the evening of December 24 was devoted to waiting for midnight, in church, with all the Christmas carols, with the olive trees of Judea that were told to those who walked under the olive trees of France – there were three masses in a row.

At the end of the Midnight Mass, the Mass of Birth, we could celebrate Christmas – not before – we were not going to steal the little Jesus, just born.

But that year, in Cucugnan, the whole village, all of them, went up to the church with all the delicious smells of the coming feast in their hearts and stomachs. In front of their eyes, it was not the little straw crib they saw, but the table crumbling with dishes, sauces, little candles, garlands made by the children, wine flowing in the beautiful beveled glasses.

The wind didn’t help them – in the middle of the first mass, a huge puff of odors enveloped the church – and all, parishioners and the priest alike, saw quail, pies, turkey, and olive fougasse springing up. The priest felt a little lost, he forgot where he was in his first mass.
He didn’t mean to – he missed a piece and they all found each other early at the end of the first mass.
The village was delighted: the priest was going faster than usual.
Everybody started the second mass with their chops licked.

You understood the rest, didn’t you?
Every time the wind blew, the whole church started thinking about the feast. And there was wind that night.
So, without even realizing it, they accelerated. The parish priest, the altar boys, the faithful, began to celebrate the masses that were left over, faster and faster, getting dizzy.

And the third Mass was completed. We could go and eat, at last!
They ran to the banquet tables.

The next day, the village was completely deserted.
The victuals, the wine, the cheese, the roasts, everything had remained in place, intact.

And the following Christmas, those in the Queribus castle – the castle just above the village – saw with horror all the villagers and the priest, all beautiful and dressed up, reciting their mass at full speed, like madmen, like the damned.

Oh yes, they had wanted to steal time from little Jesus – so they ran after time.
It seems that they are still running.

You’ll tell me it’s a horrible story? But children love horrible stories.
And on Christmas Day, reminding them that we can, if we want to, not run after time and enjoy what we live, without always wanting to “after”, even when we are not Christian, is a nice life lesson for living well.

As for the staging – it is perfect for a show for young audiences: the show is short – rhythmic – with costumes and sets – a real pleasure of show.

❤ ❤ ❤ Merry Christmas ❤ ❤ ❤

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Featured Image : the feasting of the Santons – welcome in France

12 Thoughts

  1. It is 3 am … and while reading your story I felt hungry and need a feast as well. It is a lockdown in Germany! So, how am I going to find a feast in the middle of the night? Oh well, the kitchen is calling, I guess. 😉
    Merry Christmas, dear Barbara.

    Liked by 3 people

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