On the 1st of May and then every Sunday throughout the month, Nice celebrates the arrival of spring at lu festin de Nissa. This custom dates back to Roman times when a “Mai” (a large pine tree felled in the nearby forest) was displayed in a temple and decorated with garlands of flowers and laurel leaves. Over the centuries the celebrations evolved to include dancing around the Mais placed in symbolic locations in the old town, while eating local specialities and playing “pilou” or “vitou” (two traditional Niçois games). A May Queen is usually elected too.
Nowadays lu festin de Nissa takes place amongst the beautiful ancient olive trees in the garden of the Cimiez Arena, itself built on the ruins of the Roman city of Céménelum, in a sense bringing the “festin” back to its roots. It still involves plenty of eating, drinking, folk dancing and traditional games for children.
The lovely medieval village of Haut-de-Cagnes, in fact the old centre of Cagnes sur Mer, also holds its own very similar party, la Fête des Mais, but I must admit that when I first saw the poster for this festival I couldn’t imagine why Cagnes would celebrate corn.
Let me explain, for those of you who don’t speak French, the word for corn is “maïs” (like maize). So not paying full attention I read it to be the Fête des Maïs. This part of the world is not known for its corn production so I just didn’t get it. But what I hadn’t noticed was the two little dots above the i were missing, making it “mais” not “maïs”, see what I mean? Easy to mistake. Having sussed this, I still didn’t know what the festival was about, assuming it must be something to do with May (mai) but why the s? Time for a little research which ended up in me writing this blog. Mai in this context turns out to be a Nissart word (a sub dialect of Provençal).
If the rain holds off we’ll check it out ourselves en famille the day after tomorrow and report back….
(2 days later) … and here you have it; the rain stayed away, the sun shone and we had a great time in the gorgeous old town of Haut-de-Cagnes. We chose Cagnes over Nice as the programme seemed more geared to children and our 7 year old, reluctant to go at first, didn’t want to leave he ended up having so much fun. Highlights included the crazy game of square boules played on a steep slope and traditional wooden games, The following photos are from today, 1st May 2013.
Do you like to visit traditional festivals like this? I’d love to hear from you.
Music, Music Everywhere: Fête de la Musique
PIN it for later
Triple photo collage courtesy of Cagnes sur Mer website
Hadn’t realised there was a Festival in France around the May Day Bank Holiday. Looks like fun though
Nice to read this blog post again – what a difference though, 7 years later. No festivals and my boys nearly all grown up. We could have predicted one of those things but not the other.
I love festivals and I love Nice. Sounds like a winning combo! Thanks for linking up with #reasonstotravel!
I would LOVE to visit Nice! The weather, the culture, and the scenery have got me hooked. Thank you for linking up with #REASONStoTRAVEL!
This sounds absolutely wonderful, thank you so much for linking this up with #REASONStoTRAVEL and for sharing so much information. I love folk dancing and have done Italian folk dancing for years, actually every time I visit a new city the first thing I do is look for folk festivals! This is on the list!
Have you shared this post on twitter? Use the hashtag #REASONStoTRAVEL and I will retweet you!
Angie from reasons to dress, fashion, travel and life as a mom in Italy.
Thanks for your encouraging words; it’s always very satisfying when a new reader enjoys my posts. My son loved the pulley game – it was mch harder than it looks!!
Hi Delia, thanks for your compliments as always. Colourful costumes, sunshine, smiling faces…it’s not hard to get good shots!
Thank you Catherine!
Thanks for popping by and commenting. It was fun, you’re spot on! 😉
Monopoly money today, Euros tomorrow!! Ha ha, I love it! We too gave in to the Xbox but son N°1 saved up and bought it with his pocket money so would be rather unfair to give it to guests really! Could be threatened though….there’s an idea.
Having fun exploring your posts and beautiful photos, bravo. I love these costumes, the children are adorable and that pulley game looks brilliant! Look forward to reading more.
Oh how fun! Love love the costumes and the pics are so colourful, it’s like you are there! Thanks for this great post!
What fun that all sounds. Lovely costumes too. As always your photos are brilliant.
Two boys here and the number of electronics they have seems to be sneaking up – they recently got their first ipods and we came back from the UK with an XBox a friend gave us … but I have told the boys that I may offer that to gite guests as an optional extra 😉 That said they are currently sitting in the other room playing poker (with monopoly money!).
It looks like so much fun…what a wonderful tradition! Its great to see these types of events still taking place! It’s a nice change from all the tv and electronics!
I so agree about getting kids away from electronic toys, Rosie, having 2 boys they are the bane of my life! But these sorts of traditional fêtes are definitely made easier to take children to and enjoy in general in the sun, and luckily for us in the south, that’s something we usually have a lot of. (I say usually because we’ve had a very wet spring so far). Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. 🙂
That all looks such fun – so colourful and so many people taking part. How great to see old traditions still thriving and kids enjoying things not plugged in or bleeping at them!! I think I too may have muddled up my mays and my maize – oh for the power of those 2 dots!