For centuries, the south of France was virtually independent from its northern neighbors. That sense of proud local identity is still visible today.
Ask anyone from Provence where they’re from, the saying goes, and they’ll tell you their village, first, then their region. That they’re “French” comes only as an afterthought. After all, for centuries, it was not French that was spoken here but the related Occitan dialect of Provençal: a dialect that, depending on who you ask, could be considered an independent language all its own.
And although speakers of Provençal have diminished in recent decades (polls vary widely, putting the number of speakers at between 100,000 and 800,000 people), several major “French” writers have worked to restore the dialect as a literary language: among them Théodore Aubanel, Joseph d’Arbaud, Robèrt LaFont, and more.
Natives of Provence also have their own regional folk costumes (like that of Arles, seen above) and folk traditions: that of “St. Barbe’s wheat”, for example, demands that wheat germ must be planted on December 4 in three various saucers. How well the germ grows is meant to determine the planter’s fate in coming years.