This weekend celebrations were held all over France to celebrate the Fête of St John the Baptist. In pre-Christian days there was a pagan ritual to celebrate the summer solstice but in the fifth century Clovis, the Frankish king, decided that St John the Baptist’s birth would be celebrated on June 24, very near the summer solstice. This overshadowed the earlier pagan festival in much the same way as Christmas did the pagan midwinter festival.
Clovis’ Fête de la St Jean also borrowed the bonfire idea, originally a solstice tradition, and cleverly paralleled the role of the solstice of announcing summer’s light with John the Baptist’s role of proclaiming the arrival of the Messiah.
Our celebrations were organised by the group of five local villages. During the week the men went out to the forest with tractors to collect wood and tie it up into faggots which were stacked up to make the chavanade. When darkness fell everyone gathered to see the bonfire lit by the worthies of the commune.
It was an enjoyable night, sitting out on a warm clear night with friends and neighbours. The music was good with all the old favourites, and the buvette did a good trade with wine and the home-made cakes made by the ladies of the villages. We left early, about midnight, but I think the party was only just beginning….
Next day we heard the party went on until 5 in the morning.