Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Felibrée Festival in the Perigord, La Dordogne, France

It takes a lot of semantic wandering to arrive at where we live in France. Tumbling down this road, we live in the Nouvelle Aquitaine, the Dordogne, the Perigord, the Perigord Vert, and finally the village of Bourdeilles. It’s way too complicated to explain, but this is sort of the French version of region, state, county, city.  France now has 13 regions each with strong regional traditions. The language and cultural traditions of the Perigord are celebrated each year at the Felibrée Fair

Not too long ago most of the locals in our village did not speak French. They spoke a sort of patois that is called Occitan or langue d’oc. It actually wasn’t just our village, but all of southern France, each with their own nuances of patois. My neighbor remembers having her knuckles rapped by her teacher if she was caught speaking to her classmates the patois she spoke at home. Into the 1950s France was in the process of erasing this old language and having “French” be universal.

There were always those that wanted to preserve the old language and some of the traditions that were associated with this southern culture. Eventually they organized an annual fair and conferences. There are now courses in school for the language, language clubs sprinkled around the different villages, and folk groups that carry on the traditional dress, music and dance.

Once a year all things Occitan are celebrated at this grand Felibrée. This vivacious fair is held in a different location each year showing off the beautiful corners of the Perigord.

The Felibree is hosted by a different city or village each year.  The decorations are unlike anything you will see anywhere at any time other than in that village for the four days of the fair. Pride of place is important, but it is also the work behind that scenes that perpetuates a sense of place. It takes 500 worker bees all winter to make the 130,000 artificial flowers that will then be strung into garlands to hang above the celebrations in the streets of this years showcase community. There are usually anywhere from 5 - 10 neighboring villages or hamlets that take part in this massive work load. These communal hours spent together before the Felibrée are as important as the event itself. Winter is the time that communities gather together, folks sit for hours on end chatting while their hands work towards a common goal.

There will be dances, lectures, demonstrations of how things used to be done - children gasp to see laundry washed in buckets and wrung out by fingers turning to prunes, there will be bike decorations and mountains of food to be eaten, music and dancing and beautiful costumes, books to buy written in the old language - even a church service conducted in Occitan, t-shirts to buy and more dancing. It’s a fair!



MaryLou said...

So beautiful and amazing! Thank you for bringing me to the fair, Susan!! 😍

Mary Jo said...

I am surprised that even in France, there is a need to preserve vanishing cultures. Thanks for capturing and sharing the look and feel of this fair.