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La scene du Cacho-fio au Musee Arlaten à Arles

In the cottages of Provence one of the oldest traditions is that of the “Cacho-fio”. Our forebears would say: “bouta cacho-fio” that is set the fire to the log. Slowly disappearing nowadays, this ceremony would take place in front of the sitting-room chimney just before the “Great Supper” on Christmas Eve.

The eldest would take the “caganis” (the youngest) to the timber storage place to select the biggest log the one liable to burn for the best of the night. Traditionally this log should come from a fruit tree such as an olive, cherry or almond tree. The chosen log was then supposed to burn for three days and three nights.

The whole gathering then must turn three times around the table (symbol of the Trinity) itself covered with three tablecloths. The youngest wets the log with a branch soaked in fortified wine while patriarch says the following words of blessing in Provencal:

Alègre, alègre
Dièu nous alègre
Calèndo vèn, tout bèn vèn
Dièu nous fague la gràci de veire l’an que vèn
E se noun sian pas mai, que noun fuguen pas mens

This means :

Christmas log
Give us the fire
Let us rejoice
God gives us the joy
Christmas comes, everything comes well
God give us the favour to see the coming year
And if we are not more
Let us not be less.

In the past the manner in which the log burned was an omen. It was expected to last up to Twelfth Night, Epiphany day. Then, dumping the remnants of the log under the bed was supposed to protect the house against thunderbolts and fire.

La scene du Cacho-fio dans nos chaumieres de Provence

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