Monday, December 12, 2011


Echoes from the fife and drum awoke me from my sieste. As this is not a sound that we hear everyday, not even in Provence, I grabbed my coat, wrapped my scarf tight and headed out, drawn to the sound like one of Peter Pan's children. A crowd surrounded the corners of the Place du Forum, just a few yards from my front door.

Throngs of women, dressed in the traditional costume, L'Arlesienne, nodded their heads together in gossip, pointing discretely to companions across the way, comparing fabrics and hairstyles. Lines of children in miniature costumes filled the inner square, shifting about from foot to foot, trying their best not to tug at their perfectly draped shawls. 

With a muffled canon boom, the drum choir struck a new beat. From my view over shoulders and above heads, I could see the tiny bodies start to sway, lead hand in hand, guided by an adult, an abat-mage

Under arms upraised like bridges they would duck, then turn and turn again. Snaking into a circle, with a hop and a skip that flowed like the waves of the Mediterranean. Une Farandole Provençale. A mix of medieval dances, it is both utterly charming and graceful.

Like 'Crack the Whip', those at the end are pulled along at a greater speed by the force of the others. Little ballet slippers barely touched the ground, squeaks of delighted fear rose to a crescendo as the last dancer twirled away. And in the parting crowds I spied...the old maid santon with her wool batting come to life!

I have no idea why this particular farandole took place but I am sure it has to do with the fast approaching Fêtes. How lovely to see history living and breathing in these beautiful young girls. Something to make my heart sing, with the lyrics to a farandole, "Tout est joyeux dans le ciel de Provence!" All is joyful under the Provençal skies!


  1. An utterly delightful post, dear Heather. I enjoyed watching la farandole with you today. When I close my eyes, i can almost hear the sound of the fife and drum that rock the summers of my childhood. On another note, I am glad you take the time to enjoy "la sieste" before the craziness of the Holidays really starts. ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. Wish I'd been there, SP

  3. Hello Heather:
    Like you, we take delight in traditional customs being kept by young people. Somehow in these uncertain times in which we live, it is quietly reassuring to see the continuity with the past being kept and old ways passed down the generations.

    We have so enjoyed sharing the Farandole with you. And, dear Heather, did you skip along to the beat too?!!!

  4. Hello Heather

    What a joy it must have been to awake to music and dance. No doubt a lot of work goes into a festival such as this. Long live the Farandole


  5. I love the pictures of the little girls - such joy! And I remember the costumes from the Christmas Eve service several years ago. Ah, Arles!

  6. Heather you have the most wonderful traditions taking place in France. This looks like a lot of fun!

  7. You certainly do live in the THICK of good things!Happy too to hear you take a nap from time to time!Happy Holiday season to you and your buddies.............dont forget to put that package under the tree!

  8. Hello everyone and thank you for your lovely comments! Oh my, that I haven't been more present in responding shows that I too am getting caught up in the thick of things...I am hoping that tomorrow morning I will get our tree!!

    Remi sent me an article explaining the origins of the particular farandole that I saw. Once I understand it better, I'll pass the info along!

    PS. Jane and Lance, OF COURSE I was grooving to the beat. I couldn't help it! :)

  9. SO charming!! Love all these timeless traditions!!

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