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Nuit de la Saint-Jean in Sainte-Maxime

1 June 2016

 Join Fellow Revelers on 24th June for an Authentic French Party

Saint-Jean Day – celebrating the birth of Saint John the Baptist – is a significant event in the French calendar and falls on 24th June each year. The fête is celebrated across Europe in countries such as Spain and the Scandinavian nations, and is a huge event for much of Canada – in Quebec province it is a national holiday. In France, the festival is called Nuit de la Saint-Jean and is usually marked by outdoor bonfires, music and parties, tying together both the Christian and pagan heritage of the country. Read on to find out more and how you can join in celebrations in Sainte-Maxime this summer.

Pagan Origins 

The primary reason so many Christian countries across the world celebrate this prophet is that it was John the Baptiste who foretold the coming of the Messiah. As time has passed, lively festivities and celebrations of all France’s native cultures have become synonymous with this midsummer festival and it is one of the most anticipated holidays in the country. As this feast is so close to the summer solstice, it tends to be largely an outdoor celebration and one that also gives thanks to good weather, fertile crops and hopes for a good harvest. 

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Locals hope for a good harvest

The pagan traditions associated with this holiday date back to the fall of the Roman Empire when the Gauls and Celts populated France – it was the Christian association with this date that came later. The festive, pagan element of the fête is somewhat different to the solemn implications of the saint’s day – in many areas of France, people start the day with a church service and follow it with an evening bonfire event. Some more rural towns and villages get their young people to jump over the flames – another ritual harking back to pre-Christian days – to ensure both the land and community are enriched with strength, vitality and fertility.

Since France has such a rich history, involving so many cultural influences, this day has happily evolved into a celebration of spirituality, religion and the land. Similar to the British ‘Guy Fawkes Night’ celebrated each November, bonfires are integral to the celebration and are a way of people coming together in the great outdoors.


Celebrate in Sainte-Maxime

Sainte-Maxime has an annual Nuit de la Saint-Jean celebration and this year’s event will be simply unmissable for those staying at Amarante Golf Plaza. The evening will begin at City Hall at 8:30pm when lanterns will be distributed, free of charge, to children. At 9pm, when the flame of Canigou (a mountain in the Pyrenees) arrives, there will be short speeches of thanksgiving given by authorities before a lantern procession leads spectators down to the beach.

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Bonfires and night-time celebrations at the beach

 The crowds will reach the city centre beach at around 9:45pm, where a bonfire will be set alight and traditional pagan dances performed around it. Guests can socialise and enjoy the warmth of the fire as they watch the sun set over the sea and at 10:30pm, the firework display will begin. The reflection of the twinkling lights over the darkening sea promises to be beautifully atmospheric and a moment all the family can enjoy.

 Although late, the beach event is followed by a ball at the Theatre of the Sea, starting at 10:40pm. A live orchestra will play into the night so revelers can dance and the best part is that the whole of this event has free entry! Turn up with plenty of time to spare to get a good space in the procession so you don’t miss a moment. This is a magical, authentically French date to put in your diary – if you’re in Sainte-Maxime on June 24th, there’s simply nowhere else to be…


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