Monday, 25 November 2013

Talking Hats, Trees and Traditions

Today, 25 November is St Catherine's Day and it's also the date of a famous French tradition which has been held since the Middle Ages, celebrating Catherinettes, the  name for girls of twenty-five years old who were still unmarried by the Feast of St Catherine, the patron saint of single girls.

The Catherinettes would visit church to "cap" St Catherine's statue with a head dress and to pray for a husband.  The young women would create extravagant hats in green or yellow to wear on St Catherine's Day too. Over the years women's status and the importance placed on marriage by a certain age changed so this custom is less popular than in the past.

There are young women who do still take part, including nurses, teachers and hairdressers, often encouraged by their colleagues, like the hairdresser in the clip below.  Her colleagues have secretly made a huge hat for her to wear representing her job and incorporating her love of buying boots and a model of her car.  

Another French tradition that falls on 25 November is " a la Sainte Catherine tout prend racine" or "tout bois prend racine" or in other words, today is a good day for planting trees, bushes and rose bushes in time for next spring.  The snow will fall (it has already this week) covering and protecting the bulbs and saplings during the winter.

It's also said that if it's cold on Saint Catherine's day winter is straight ahead.  "S'il fait froid, l'hiver tout droit."  Well I won't be wearing a chapeau de la Catherinette today but I do have my thermals's cold and the snow will be back soon!!

Do you know of any interesting French sayings and traditions?  Please share in the comments below.

Friday, 22 November 2013

With love from Le Morvan to Paris

Photograph By Association Française du Sapin de Noël Naturel

This is the magnicifient 11 metre  high tree that is on its way today from the Morvan National Regional Park in Burgundy to the bright lights of Paris to be proudly displayed at the Elysee Palace. 
The sale and export of Christmas trees is a very important source of revenue for our region.
The sheer scale of the forests here in the Morvan is impressive, acres and acres of trees - spruce, fir, beech, birch and oak.  Tall cathedrals of spruce and pine grow up everywhere but particularly high around Haut Folin, the ski area.  

Forestry is the only real industry in the parc. Many of the coniferous forests are totally commercial, nothing is wasted, from the young saplings that are sold as Christmas trees to the full grown trees sold for timber.

The massive numbers of trees producing vast quantities of oxygen contributes to the Morvan's reputation for having the cleanest air in Europe.  The forests also provide a home for all the wildlife;birds deer and wild boar.

Saulieu, the gateway to the Morvan, holds an annual  Fetes du Sapins to celebrate fir trees. This year on the 14 and 15 December, a big "la Veillee morvandelle" - a typical regional party - is promised.  There will be a craft market, workshops, a show for kids, trees decorated by artists, shows and of, course, wine tasting.

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!!