A santon (coming from the Provençal santoun or ‘little Saint’) is a small figurine, usually made out of clay and used in nativity scenes.
Santons became popular after the French Revolution of 1789 when churches were closed and Nativity scenes were banned.
They gave a chance to ordinary people to ‘bring religion home’ by setting up crèches in their own homes, a tradition previously reserved for the rich.
The most famous santons portray common Provençal folk in 18th and 19th century clothes who visit the Holy Family and bring presents.
Traditionally created in Provence, the santon maker is called a santonnier.