Saturday, 19 February 2011

The wrong Saint

January 22 is the official day of Saint Vincent, the patron saint of the wine growers. This is a festival that does not go unnoticed in this wine growing area, but having said that, because we live in a small almost wineless enclave, Cormatin itself is not really involved in this tradition. There is a yearly big festival for the whole of Burgundy, which is rotating yearly from village to village. The festival lost its importance at the end of the 19th century, parallel with secularisation of French society, but was revived in the late thirties, and last year 40000 people took part in the celebrations. In 2009 the Saint Vincent Tournante was held in the area of the Mâcon-villages appellation.
In places where there is still an active “Société de secours mutuelle” (something like a wine growers union, association or guild), in our part of the world united in a bigger society, the “Confrérie des Vignerons de St Geng de Vigny” (note the typical French subtle play on words - Saint-Gengoux or Saint-Jean and vigneron or vignoble), a yearly local St. Vincent festival is celebrated.
This festival also rotates every year, although in a much smaller area. Although not directly involved, we had heard from friends who live and are active in the local Amicale or Foyer Rural in the nearby village of Saint-Ythaire, that the local Saint Vincent this year was hosted by their village.
They have been busy for months, one evening a week together with other villagers, to fold paper flowers to decorate the village. Since we are involved in similar projects in Cormatin, we realised how big this event must be in comparison to “our” one night flower folding event for the yearly Téléthon. Anyway, we expressed our interest in this festival, and our friends kept us up to date. Recently we were issued with a program and an inscription form, we paid our entrance fee, and bingo, we were in for a day out on Sunday 7 February.
It turned out to be a misty day, when we turned up at 9h30 in Vaux, at a barn next to our friends’ house. They had indeed done a wonderful job in decorating the village. Not just in the village itself, but also along the roads leading up to Vaux and Saint-Ythaire there was an overabundance of Christmas trees along the streets, decorated with paper flowers.
The trees were partially donated after Christmas, partially freshly stolen from the surrounding woods. Also hedges and permanent trees were “flowering” in a sea of yellow, red, green, violet and blue. Apart from that, displays were made of various materials, whereby the number of “puppets” draped in wheelbarrows, surrounded by numerous empty wine bottles, suggested more than seven drunken nights. Of course nobody turned up in time; this is France after all. But by 9h45 sort of a parade was formed, headed by the various Guilds in their uniforms with banners and their own statue of Saint Vincent.
I dropped my proverbial clanger, when I saw Saint Vincent standing on a sedan chair, where the carrying structure clearly said “Saint-Vallerin”. I shouted out that these guys had brought the wrong Saint, not realising that it was the name of the village where this Saint Vincent lived, and not the name of the Saint itself.
Well, nobody is perfect....

To be continued

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