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At midnight between the 24th and the 25th of December Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. This celebration consists in three masses, the midnight mass, the dawn mass and the day mass. “Shepherding” is celebrated in Provence and Italy during the first mass. This is a very ancient custom as the winter solstice corresponds to the lambing season.

Lou Bayle, the shepherds patron saint, wearing his homespun cloak, his beribboned hat and holding his pilgrim’s staff is accompanied by other shepherds among whom a young one carrying the last born lamb. It is followed by the ewe that had borne it drawing a cart filled with presents. The procession would proceed through barely lit hills and mountains. All shepherds would then form a procession up to the altar to the sound of tambourines and pipes. In front of the altar Lou Bayle offers the little lamb to the priest and all shepherds submit their offerings then and worship Jesus as a reminder of those of the crib upon his birth.

This custom tends to disappear nowadays although some villages in Mistral’s area continue this tradition during Midnight mass.

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