Tuesday, 24 June 2008

The Fire for the Feast of St John

The brushwood for the tall Fire for the Feast of St John is placed next to the church which is next to the Mairie, whilst at the Salle des Fêtes the villagers share a buffet meal of bread, charcuterie, pickles, cheeses, and fruit, all provided by the commune. We pay for our drinks and it is not expensive.We also watched a diaporama created by Claude. The carousel of photographs depicting the year's events was shown on a huge screen during the convivial evening.
Several hours later the children collect their paper lampions and process to the square where the fire is lit. Everyone walks sedately in an anti-clockwise circle around the fire in homage to the past. One senses the traditional and probably pagan roots on this the longest day and shortest night of the year.

It is interesting to note that this celebration is obviously a Christian celebration in Europe and Catholic countries. Midsummer recognises the birthday of Saint John the Baptist. I find this pertinent because I received instruction that in France the Church and the State are separated and therefore it is inappropriate for anyone, including me to display the Nativity crêche at public meetings organised for the villagers!! So on this French feast how is the Church separated from the State?

Of course it can be explained because the celebration of Midsummer's Eve arising from ancient times was linked to the summer solstice. People believed that mid-summer plants had miraculous and healing powers and they therefore picked them on this night. Bonfires were lit to protect against evil spirits which were believed to roam freely when the sun was turning southwards again.
Here is the lovely Chantal, with her camera. She is always cheerful, positive and energetic!

For the third year Sweetpea was invited to play her accordion. Last year and the year before that she played her small accordion. However, it has been about 5 years since the medical problems resulted in an operation three years ago, when she was not able to stand, and therefore unable to carry the very heavy weight and thus play her big accordion. A small back-ache the next day was but a small price for her pleasure of playing the 50 year old instrument once again and of playing a privileged part in an important annual ceremony which is part of the French way of life! She gave pleasure to others and hopefully it has made a difference to their lives and their memories. She wonders what happened before Sweetpea arrived with the accordion!

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