Saturday, 4 June 2011

New Wave (part 1)

France keeps amazing us. We thought by now we must have found out about all festivities and festivals in the vicinity, until again we bump into something new. We had seen banners in the streets before, with rather cryptic words on it like “Conscrits 08” or Classe 06”, but we had no idea what this signified, let alone that these were announcements for big parties.
I automatically associate the word Conscrit with military conscription or draft, and since I have had the dubious pleasure of serving in her majesty’s (Juliana in those days) army for a period of 18 months, I was not really curious to find out more about it.
However, when my partner was invited for a meeting in order to prepare the festival of the Conscrits Classe 0 in the Cormatinois I felt it was time for a little research.
The origin of this phenomena lies in the period of the French revolution, when conscription was introduced in order to have a proper army in stead of having to rely on mercenaries. Very soon a sort of lottery (where lots were actually drawn from a hat) was introduced to keep the size of the army within reasonable bounds. The rich could at one stage actually pay a poor sod to serve in his place.
Anyway, the tradition of a huge party seems to have originated in Villefranche-sur-Saône, a town in Rhône, north of Lyon. The drawing of lots took place early January, and the day before the conscripts had to go to the barracks a big party was thrown by those of 20 years old.
The conscrits celebrated that they had the privilege to serve King (or Emperor, or President) and Country; those who got off the hook even had a better reason to celebrate. And even though conscription no longer exists, the yearly parties are still carrying on. And not only in Villefranche; these parties are nowadays also celebrated in the Beaujolais and Mâconnais regions. They also take place in the Alsace. A slightly different party is that of the Classe. All inhabitants of a commune, of whom the birth year ends on the same figure (e.g. 1923, 1933, ...., 2003) celebrate in the year that ends on 3 a sort of communal birthday party.
It seems that here in the Mâconnais both parties (Conscrits and Classe) are combined into one. In order to keep the length of my Blogs at bay, I will describe the Cormatin party in part 2 of this Blog. To be continued.

The website of La Tuilerie de Chazelle

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