Le Carnaval de Quillan

There’s something about cold, deprived areas that attracts the carnival. If nothing else, it’s a sure-fire way to warm the spirit and promote a sense of community. There were certainly plenty of high spirits in the Quillan Carnival, which took place throughout the day yesterday, 10 May.

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View of the revelers from our apartment window.

The festivities started in the morning, with a parade of costumed Pierrot characters, supported by a local brass band, following a Pierrot character around the streets on a float drawn by a tractor.

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This part of the festivities was supposed to start on one of the three main squares at 10h30 but, in true French style, nothing much happened until closer to 11h30, at which point the late start stalled further when the tractor briefly broke down…

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Tomos, Nick and I followed the eventual parade through the streets to the Saturday marche and Tom was given a free ‘Sud de France’ regional t-shirt for his troubles. It suits him rather well.

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During the day a carnival ‘guy’ was erected in the square outside our window to await his fate.

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The afternoon instalment was a parade of the same characters around the inner old town, including our square. The characters and their merry band danced their way around the little streets, ending in the Place de la Republique, where we watched them progressively ‘flash mob’ patrons at each of the three cafes on the square.

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For the finale, the entourage returned to the square at about 23h30, where a large crowd had been gathering at cafe tables and around the square since earlier in the evening to await their arrival – including a surprising number of young children, up late. After the necessary speeches, some pomp and circumstance, and (to much hilarity) a call for ‘a light’ from anyone in the crowd, the guy was set alight, and the gathered company paid homage to the sacrifice.

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