Rio de Janeiro, Venice and Cologne are all well known for their celebration of carnival. But here in the South of France, we have the longest carnival in the world. In the bustling town of Limoux, carnival is celebrated for three to four months. Three to four months! Now that is a carnival.
Celebrating taxes are paid
On a beautiful Saturday morning, we packed up our little family so that we could experience this longest carnival in the world. Not quite knowing what to expect. Well, you can expect a lot of people gathering around la Place de la République. The carnival dates way back to the 14th century when traditionally millers paid their taxes to the Prouille Monastery on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras). Accompanied by minstrels, the millers walked through the streets of Limoux, all the while throwing sugar-coated almonds and flour. What a way to celebrate your taxes being paid!
Fecos and Pierrots
The carnival as we see it today in Limoux has been celebrated since 1604. It takes place on the weekends from January till March at the Place de la République, the heart of Limoux. The “Fecos” (bands playing traditional music) and “Pierrots Limouxin” (masked and costumed people) dance three times a day between the medieval arcades from one pub to another. I really enjoyed watching the beautiful dancers, moving gracefully while raising their “Carabène” (wands decorated with ribbon) and throwing confetti on the crowd. I even saw some kids with the same special way of dancing. Interesting to watch when you know this tradition has passed from generation to generation.
30 bands, 600 Pierrots and 200 musicians
Luckily we managed to have lunch at restaurant “Le Vin Te 2”. They created the perfect spot for the five of us to have a lovely tapas lunch while waiting for the first groups to arrive. There are about thirty different bands, and there is one day when they all are present: “La Sortie de Toutes les Bandes”. Very special to watch all these colourful Fecos and Pierrots. In total there are about 600 Pierrots and 200 musicians. That is quite a lot out of a population of 10,000!
A band is made up of about twenty people, and each band has its own identity. They can represent, for example, a neighbourhood of Limoux or a branch of business; they all have different backgrounds. A Fecos is traditionally composed of one snare drum and one bass drum for rhythm, two sousaphones and two trombones for structure and some trumpets and clarinets for melody. Each group of Pierrots Limouxin is recognisable by the colour of their costume and their mask. We didn’t have time to see them all, but the ones we did see were highly photogenic!
La Nuit de la Blanquette, or “The Night of the Blanquette” is the last day of the Limoux Carnival. This is the judgement day for His Majesty Carnival, which will lead to his cremation. The Blanquette – champagne of Limoux, which is not officially allowed to be called “champagne” – flows lavishly. A great way to end the festivities!