This year is a little different Thanks to the pandemic, there are no events with crowds of people who are singing, dancing, drinking, kissing each other, and generally having a wonderful time together, and that includes Carnaval. It seems like the perfect opportunity for me to offer a brief look at the last century of celebrating Carnaval in Bize.
When I was in high school, one of my favorite times of the school year was Homecoming. A big dance, a football game, cheerleaders, the queen and the king, the marching band… And the parade. Every class created a float for the homecoming parade, and my class was pretty darn good at making floats. We’d get together to come up with ideas and after that we’d sketch out designs; the fun really began once we were ready to start building that float. Every year, for four years, we built our float at Cami’s house, because her family had the absolutely perfect float-building setup. For a few weeks, we’d all go there after school and on the weekends, to socialize and put things together and socialize and paint and socialize. Those were golden moments wrapped in fun and problem-solving and hard work, and I remember all of it with great fondness.
In my last post, I talked about what it really means here in France when someone says “bonjour,” and the post was titled “Good day to you.” With a nod to symmetry, I now offer you “Fare thee well.”
I was moving into a different house, and it was my last visit to the old place. This was a trip of random-sized boxes, for emptying out the refrigerator, for garden gloves, for the bathroom items I’d used that morning. And it was a trip for closing up the house. As I was packing my car, the neighbor who shared a driveway with me was headed toward the river carrying a chair. She walked over to ask if this was it. I said yes, it is and it’s a little sad, but she said non. “You will still be here in town, and we will see each other.” We chatted a few minutes about random things, and then she mimed knocking on a door and told me to come over any time. “Tok tok, Michelle ! Je suis la !”
In areas of the world with a predominantly Catholic population, Carnival (spelled Carnaval in France) is the festive period prior to Lent, the time of prayer and penance before Easter. During Lent, people traditionally abstained from eating meat, which may have led to the word “carnival” (essentially a derivative from Latin and meaning “removal of meat”). People also refrained from consuming dairy, eggs, other fatty foods, and sugar.
If you don’t get to eat meat or other goodies for six weeks, then you might have the urge to load up as much as possible beforehand. Let the party begin! Laissez les bon temps rouler!