Our Village Fête: Yesterday and Today

 

Traditional dancing at our fête several years ago

Traditional dancing at our fête several years ago

We went to our village’s Fête de Pentecôte (Whitsun fete) last Monday. It’s still an important local event, but in times past it was among the bigger fêtes in the region. We have a lovely book of photographs showing our village between 1900 and 2000. Local people lent their photos and postcards – an amazing 616 in all were reproduced in the book. It includes a section devoted to les fêtes de Pentecôte.

1960s apogee

The 1960s marked the event’s apogee. Up to 12,000 people turned up in certain years. One of the photos shows the main street of Caylus blocked by the throng. I wonder how they diverted the traffic? These days, it would be impossible to close it, since it’s a major road.

Among the attractions was a carnival parade with imaginatively decorated floats. A troop of Gais Lurons (the best translation I can find is likely lads) always brought up the rear. In one photo, they are dressed as majorettes. Difficult to imagine the sober Caylusiens doing that today…

The fête also included a grand prix cycle race sponsored by the shopkeepers and a bal des célibataires (unmarried people’s dance). The latter was renowned in the region as the place to find your intended. There’s still a bal but these days they dance to the dulcet tones of Johnny Hallyday rather than those of Charles Trenet.

Guided walks

Times change and today the fête is a less extensive affair. Even so, there’s a lot going on and some recent innovations. One is a series of guided walks organised by a local association, Caylus Notre Village. Among other things, they are involved in a project to restore the former lavoir (wash-house), constructed in 1922.

Lavoir in Caylus

Lavoir in Caylus

The walks take in parts of the commune you wouldn’t normally see and reveal hidden aspects of the local historical heritage. The SF and I chose the middle walk of 12 km which led up a steep hill onto the causse (plateau) and followed a former Roman road.

Local patrimoine

We stopped in a pretty hamlet by this cazelle (Quercy name for a shepherd’s hut), also called a gariotte in the Lot or a borie in Provence. The area is peppered with them, a legacy of the days when sheep farming was dominant. Sometimes they are free-standing buildings, sometimes they were built into a wall.

Gariotte

Cazelle

Cazelles are constructed entirely of stone. The roof is made of overlapping flat stones (lauzes), assembled so that no supporting wooden structure is necessary.

Nearby, we saw this well-restored pigeonnier (pigeon loft). The region is renowned for them, in many different styles. You can read more about them here.

Pigeonnier

Pigeonnier

Lavoirs are also liberally scattered around the region. This one is quite far from any habitation, but they had to be built where there was a spring to feed them. Up on the causse, there are few streams and so the choice of site was limited.

Lavoir

Lavoir

The women had to lug the washing there and back. We often forget how hard everyday life was. Even so, there was a social element to the lavoirs, which no longer exists.

Lavoir detail

Lavoir detail

You might also like:

Celebrating the Past at our Village Fête
Fêtes and Festivals in SW France
All Fêted Out

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About nessafrance

My husband and I moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in SW France in 1997. I am fascinated by French history, rural traditions and customs and enjoy seeking out the reality behind the myths. I run my own copywriting business and write short stories and the occasional novel in my spare time. My husband appears here as the SF, which stands for Statistics Freak, owing to his penchant for recording numbers about everything.
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16 Responses to Our Village Fête: Yesterday and Today

  1. Pingback: C’est la Fête! | Life on La Lune

  2. merewoman says:

    Back in the day, the village fetes around here were the only occasion to meet people from the neighbouring villages. Our nextdoor neighbour said that they were the highlight of the year, when the young girls and boys hoped to find sweethearts. She met her husband at one of the fairs. Although he only lived 3 kilometers away, they had never met before!

    Thanks for visiting my blog, Vanessa. I look forward to your guest appearance at the LitFest lunch. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I’m sure it was like that here in bygone days. People rarely travelled outside their own locality. Our neighbour, who is 88, was said to be a foreigner because when he married his late wife he came from “a long way away” i.e. about 3 kms, rather like your neighbour’s husband!

      I look forward to meeting you too.

      Like

  3. Osyth says:

    My greatest disappointment when I first moved to Cantal was discovering that the lovely fête they promised me for 14 juillet was actually a horrible tacky funfair complete with garish cuddly toys and ghastly music. But the locals flock to it so I have to allow for progress I suppose ….

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds a bit like my village, Saint-Chinian, where things used to be a lot livelier than they are these days. You’ll probably have a fair few of the ‘likely lads’ still living in your town, the 1960’s weren’t all that long ago…

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      I’m sure some of the likely lads are still around, although I didn’t recognise any from the rather blurry photo. The 1960s were indeed not that long ago – I remember them well! But things are still very different today. My husband and I marvelled at the photo of the crowds thronging the main street. You just couldn’t do that with today’s traffic.

      Like

  5. The ebb and flow of village fetes is a fascinating topic. When we bought our holiday house in 1990 the village fete, held on the first weekend after 15th august, was a splendid affair lasting four days. Ladies who didn’t seem to dress up for any other occasion always looked wonderful and it was through the fete that we got to know many of our neighbours. We always took part in the petanque ‘triplettes’ ( a third being found for us) and were always knocked out in the first round! The highlight was the ‘defile de chars fleuris’ on sunday afternoon. By the end of that decade it was all gone. After we retired here some of the younger parents restarted the fete but in a reduced form. I spent many evenings twisting crepe paper into flowers for the chars and facepainted small children most of the fete weekend. After about five years the faithful few who organised and worked so hard every year were tired of giving up their summers to the fete and so it has lapsed again. The council organise a village picnic every july to ensure there is an opportunity for neighbours to meet up but i mourn the loss of the fete. Maybe the next generation will remember it with affection and ressurect it again? Lovely to read that yours still survives…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      It’s a pity that your fete no longer takes place, but maybe these things go in cycles. Although I have a sense that the village fete was once one of the highlights of the year and is no longer. We arrived in 1997 and I think the défilé de chars had long since gone from our village. Another village used to have one in the late 1990s, but I think that has lapsed, too.

      Like

  6. Monique says:

    Hello–gais lurons –did you mean Lively Lads Gai(e) means de bonne humeur. and the familiar, a bit tipsy.

    Luron (onne) is a happy person—sans souci and a personne hardie en amour.

    Monique

    Liked by 1 person

    • nessafrance says:

      No, I do mean the translation I gave. Anyone of a certain age who is British will know what I mean! The Likely Lads was a British TV sitcom in the 1960s and the main characters fit all those descriptions. Another example of cultural differences that are difficult to explain…

      Liked by 1 person

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