Last weekend I had the pleasure to witness an old traditional feast in the Beaujolais – the countryside north to Lyon. Roughly translated it’s the feast of the conscription. It started a loooong time ago, by planning a party for the guys before they would leave for the army. Nowadays it’s still celebrated and since the conscription is no more, the party is just celebrated when people turn a certain age. Conscrits also stands for ‘people of the same age’, which actually makes sense, because everyone who turns 20 in the same year will belong to the same class – conscrit.
Mathieu, a friend of mine has his roots in the Beaujolais, so he could tell us all about it. In fact, he already did in october when he took us to a museum about the conscrit. I was hosting Rafael, an Argentinan friend, so he was the lucky one to join us. Read his experience in the box below.
[testimonial_boxes][testimonial_box writer_name=”Rafael “Macho Argento” Montero” writer_email=”” company_name=”” website=”” target=”_blank”]It really was an awesome time I had in the Beaujolais with my friends Nicole and Mathieu. For me, the defilé de Conscrits was an incredible way to see how people change through time. As I told to Nicole the first day of the defilé, it was like some sort of time travelling experience. Later, when Mathieu explained to me what all of that was about I felt that I would love to have this kind of festivity back in Argentina, and meet my old friends every ten years and see how they are doing – Rafael “Macho Argento” Montero[/testimonial_box][/testimonial_boxes]
Saturday Rafael and I started out in the winecave in Beaujeu. We tasted a sparkling wine and the red Beaujolais Villages of 2011, both very nice!
Then Mathieu came to meet us and he took us to Belleville, the town where they celebrated the fête des conscrits last weekend. On saturday night they had an humorous defilé planned. And humorous it was. Mathieu confided us in his experience a few years ago – apparently the people start drinking early in the day while they are taking care of the finishing touch of the parade cars. Well, that was a clear thing to see!
The first group was the class which celebrated their 80 years, I wasn’t sure if they were having a hard time walking for their age or if it was mainly caused by the alcohol. Every class walked together, so for each group that was walking by, ages would decrease with 10 years. Last group that came by were the conscrits of 2025, so a big group of children aged 10. It was very funny to watch and the people in the defilé were having a great time walking there. Unfortunately there weren’t a lot of people watching, because of the pouring rain.
After watching, we went for a drink in a small bar in another village, Odenas. Apparently a man was celebrating his 70 years conscrit there, so he had a small party in family atmosphere. He was in a great mood, he even bought us drinks ‘because he was so grateful that we were there for his conscrit’.
Next day we came back to watch the real thing. La vague, the official defilé. The groups are all dressed up and wearing a hat, with a coloured ribbon that points out in which class you are. We went home after our quiet drink in the bar, but the conscrits of course had a huge party to celebrate, so I could only imagine how they would show up. Well, to be honest, if it would have been me partying that hard the night before, I wouldn’t dress up and walk in a defilé at 11 in the morning, so I admire that part.
They didn’t disappoint me. The defilé started with a fanfare followed by the youngest groups. Boys and girls of 19 and 20 years old. Some were clearly hungover, some even seemed as if they were still very, very drunk. Not judging their shabby faces, they looked good in the costumes and hats. As the night before, every new class that passed, was a group of 10 years older. After 40 it got even more interesting. Regardless the older age they also showed the obvious traces of alcohol, but they looked even more happy and very proud to be able to carry on this tradition.
In the class of 70 years we saw the man who was celebrating his party the night before. He looked at us and we saw the confusion in his eyes. “They look familiar. Do I know these people from somewhere?!”
The class of 80 years was adorable, there were lots of cars driving close to them, so that in case they would be too tired to walk further, they could hop in and still be part of the defilé. In this class men and women were walking together again. Last group was the 90 years class. They rode the defilé in a car, protecting them from the cold and walking far.
After the defilé, people came together in a square, some held a speech and then they went on to get a drink of honour at the jeu de boules parc. We got back into our car to have lunch in another village.
It was an interesting experience, to see this tradition. It was clearly a countryside tradition, but it also kind of reminded me of carnaval. That’s just another traditional feast that is still celebrated, long time after the real significance has been gone. If you are close to a place where this fête des conscrits is held, I would recommend you to check it out. As my friend Rafael said, you see the differences in the different classes and you can clearly see the strong bond the people in a class have.