Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bonne Année!

Every January, in common with other towns and villages all over France, the Maire of St Nicolas de Bourgueil and his fellow councillors hold a 'Ceremonie de Voeux' (New Year's wishes) for the village.  The exact format differs from commune to commune, but each includes a word from the Maire reporting on completed projects from the previous year, plans for the current year and ends in wishing everyone in the village health and happiness for themselves and their families.

Our Ceremonie was held last Saturday and about a quarter of the population (350 folk) attended.  After the word from Christel, our Maire, there was the prize giving for the best floral displays in the village in 2012 - 3 of the councillors travel all over the village during the summer and decide the worthy winners in the courtyard, roadside display and wine press categories (well, we are a wine-growing village!). 

In St Nicolas, we also watch a film each year.  A club in the village usually films all the year's events (school fete, annual football competition, new mother and baby ceremony on Mother's Day, etc.) and presents the film at the Voeux.  This year though we were treated to the second part of a special three-film series which has documented the memories of the old folks in the village.  As well as being a fascinating insight into the village's history over the past 80 years or so, this is an important record - St Nicolas was occupied during the second world war and much of the written records were destroyed - the number of villagers left who remember those days is sadly declining ( 3 have passed away since making this year's film) and so their memories are precious.

This year's film theme was traditional trades and schooldays of old.  Villagers' filmed memories were interspersed with contemporary photos and documents as well as a couple of filmed demonstrations - one by an old basket-weaver and the other by a couple of real characters who used to be blacksmiths.  Their description of the need to clean a horse's hooves before re-shoeing them taught the audience the saying 'le marechal ferrant touche le merde avant l'argent' (you'll have to look up the translation yourselves!).

For the schooldays section, the club had taken a group of current village children to a school museum to spend a day in traditional uniform learning about a typical school day and this footage was interspersed with the old folks' memories. This combining of young and old in the film was particularly touching.

As is tradition for almost every civic gathering here, the event ended with the 'pot d'amitie' - on this occasion sparkling wine and a slice of Galette des Rois (twelfth night cake) a puff pastry tart filled with frangipan - whilst villagers mingled to wish each other happy new year, complain about the terrible weather, gossip, chat and generally have a good time.

Bonne Année à Tous et à Toutes!

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