A lovely Summer tradition of the French countryside

On or around the date of the Summer Solstice, every year, in the French countryside, villagers light up a big fire in a field and dance around it until the last flame has gone. We call this « Fête de la Saint Jean » or « Saint John’s Feast” in reference to Saint John the Baptiste. But the Christians actually hijacked this tradition. It was originally a pagan rite meant to celebrate the sun.The_Feast_of_Saint_John
We celebrated our Saint Jean on Saturday before last (yes yes, I am a lazy blogger) in a field near the Dordogne river, right outside my hometown. There is a very special Stonehenge type stone there. It is 5000 years old and shaped like an open hand. Old folks say it has magic powers…solstice-saint-jean-libourne
No religious celebration that day. It was pagan all the way. It had quite a lovely hippie feel to it actually, with big tall marionettes, bun fires, guitar playing, teenagers flirting, fireworks and a really (really) bad French BBQ (prepared with all their heart. God bless them…)solstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libourne
I brought my friend Plume with me and we had a lovely time. A few old friends, and cousins I hadn’t seen in years, were there. My cousin Vincent (the guy in the pink shirt) and I started discussing photography and my car photography website in particular. He mentioned that he had bought a Jaguar since we had seen each other last, and was driving down to Agen the next day for a Jaguar Owners’ Club Meeting. So now you know where and with whom I spent my Sunday :0)solstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libourne
I think that traditional gatherings like these, religious in nature or not, have a huge influence on keeping a community together. No preaching necessary though. Just happy people together around a bonfire with food, music and lots of pets and kids running around… free…solstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libourne H92A0720H92A0958 H92A0957 solstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libournesolstice-saint-jean-libourne

61 Comments Add yours

  1. Your blog is beautiful. I spent two weeks in Villeneuve sur Lot and immersed myself in the laid back country lifestyle. The experience has been forever etched in my memory as one of the best vacations I have ever taken myself on. Thank you for finding my blog and liking it. I find great joy in sharing my stories of food and travel, especially when they involve Europe!
    A bientot!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh thank you Mary! I absolutely love the lot and the lot et Garonne. Quintessential French country living… Thank you so much for dropping by 🙂

  2. Dorothea V says:

    Had a look for the first time, great photos, will read again, enjoyed.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Dorothea!

  3. you take fantastic photos

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Why thank you Brandon! Coming from you I take it as a huge compliment. I really like your blog and I’m now a follower…

  4. gypsygurl64 says:

    Lovely Stephane as always. I don’t think I’ve read a bad blog from you! I think I’ve said before but I’m from Louisiana but live in Arizona. Not a whole lot of good BBQ in this neck of the woods. Every so often I have to go home and get real BBQ. (my dad’s)

    1. My French Heaven says:

      New Orleans BBQ is quite special! I was in Florida early last year after 10 years away. When my friends asked what the first meal I wanted was, I said BBQ ribs without a second hesitation… Remember Brennan’s BBQ shrimp? Nothing to do with ribs and traditional BBQ sauce, but boy! I make them myself here. I have what I believe is the original recipe. 1 shrimp = one pound on the hips, but soooooo worth it. Here is my post about it:https://myfrenchheaven.com/2013/12/08/when-a-simple-recipe-becomes-a-love-letter/
      I love this so much, I think I’ll repost the whole thing tomorrow…

      1. gypsygurl64 says:

        What a lovely thing to say about us Americans! I love Louisiana and whenever I feel like I miss Europe really bad I go home! My dad makes the BEST kick ass ribs! Of course he has been a butcher all his life so I’m sure that helps! 😉 I am sorry to say though that because of family squabbles, that Brennan’s in NOLA closed for a time in 2013 but I think it’s reopened. I will have to try making this recipe! Of course being from Louisiana I have to love seafood! 🙂 Just lovely Stephane!!

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Oh the seafood there. We don’t have/use soft shell crabs here. I miss that. Oh what I wouldn’t give for a good spicy spider roll… 😉

  5. Ooh what fun! Shame about the BBQ.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I know! Nothing beats a good American BBQ I tell you!

      1. The scary bit is it’s not hard to do a decent thing to pull off! Some of them are complicated but you can do a really nice one without too much difficulty.

        1. My French Heaven says:

          i make a good BBQ here. I cook my meats on vines and the smoky taste is incredible. We don’t do the BBQ sauce though and that’s what I miss. I have a Texan niece who just sent me some good dry rub, so I may give it a try. The only BBQ sauce you can find here is Heins and it’s way too sweet. My friend Carl uses it as a base ingredient and adds his own stuff to it. My favorite is Head Country, but I only found it on Amazon at 72€ the small bottle. That’s a little excessive I think…

          1. Super easy to make BBQ sauce. I do one with peaches. The vines sound like a wonderful idea!

  6. Angeline M says:

    Fabulous photos! This sounds like a wonderful community event.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      It really was Angeline. These events lift my spirit every time and make me want to share and blog. So it’s all good 😉

  7. Maisey says:

    Beautiful post – and thank you for the visit. I miss living in France.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are most welcome my dear!

  8. chef mimi says:

    what a stunning post, stephane!

    1. My French Heaven says:


  9. originaltitle says:

    This sounds amazing! Great pictures! I feel like I can really imagine being there. What a wonderful summer event. I agree that these sorts of events are crucial for community togetherness. I wish we did more things like this where I live. Thank you for sharing. It must have been a truly wonderful evening from what I can tell.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Wonderful indeed. I’ll go back next year for sure! I’m not really a Summer person, but it sure is nice to be able to stay outside late into the evening…

  10. Farmgirl says:

    Spectacular. Your photos (you are my favorite photographer) always take me straight across the ocean and to the tremendous action. I love it. Thanks for sharing with us!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Your comments always make me feel so special my dear Katie!! Thank you. I hope all is well in your world!

  11. Eha says:

    A happy and enjoyable send! Celebrating St. John’s Day is actually quite widespread in Europe. I was born in Estonia in the NE and 24th June is always celebrated thus with big bonfires, lots of libations, folk dancing etc et al. Estonians are the least religious in Europe with but 20 odd per cent having anything to do with the church, but old pagan traditions oft do enter these most important celebrations of summer. Oh, all the surrounding countries find the day as important 🙂 !

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I think it’s good that more and more celebrations of joie de vivre are of a pagan nature. Very healthy!

  12. Great photos. Looks like so much fun. 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks! It really was

  13. Astounding photography! I just love the night and fire shots, very mystical. I’d go to an event like this any day!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Ha Ha. The woman with the flute was high as a kite (I think). Very mystical indeed 🙂

  14. ladyredspecs says:

    Yes, very pagan looking, but fun! My other half’s interest has been piqued by the mention of a car photography website. We’d love a peek!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks darling. I’m writing a post about French cars later today and will link to the website. Have a lovely Sunday S!

  15. Steve says:

    Lots of great shots. We also celebrate the St. Jean Baptiste holiday in Quebec….but I know you lived here for a while so are familiar with the festivities.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You know, I was only there for about two years and don’t remember participating. I read about it as I was doing my research for the post. Hey, did you see that new Leica Q? I know you’re a fan of the brand. The M is way out of my reach (and doesn’t have AF), but that Q seems fantastic (size, pic quality, lens…) What’s your opinion?

      1. Steve says:

        Way overpriced for something that will be technologically outdated in 1-2 years. No lens interchangeability. Looks pretty. As far as Leica goes, only the M is worth considering, but as you say, it’s crazy expensive when you consider that with just one lens you’re talking about $12,000. My wife has promised divorce if I take the plunge. Might be worth it….hahahaha.

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Definitely not worth it! Tell her I said that! Although it looks great, I absolutely agree with you! Enjoy your Sunday!

  16. Amazing I love it, when I come to France for a visit I want to be there for this event.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Oh I’ll take you there, but I’m sure there are many events in NYC which are much more exciting than this and you’ll have to take to one of those when I come visit 😉

  17. Linda Duffin says:

    Stunning pictures, as ever. What a fabulous event.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank dear Linda!!

  18. I’ve missed you as I’ve been busy and not online quite as much. What a lovely post to return to! I’m off to check out the food photography tips, but as much as I love your food photos, the photos of people are even better. How’s your book coming along, BTW? 🙂 I hope you’re working on it.


    1. My French Heaven says:

      I can always count on you to make me feel like a million bucks J. You know I find that I enjoy portrait photography more than anything else. The book is on hold for now (surprise surprise) but I am working on several projects like a food and lifestyle photography workshop and maybe a Youtube channel for my French heaven. I just don’t know if people will want to see my fat face on screen… Jury’s still out… Have a lovely evening my dear Janet!

      1. Those sound like wonderful projects and I know you’ll do them well. One of these days when I visit my s-i-l and b-i-l in France, I’m going to somehow get down to visit you and give you a big hug in person…and maybe share a bottle of wine. 🙂

        1. My French Heaven says:

          I’ll save a bottle 😉

  19. americanmominbordeaux says:

    As usual such beautiful photos! I can really get the feel of the evening with your photos!! You are so right, village festivals are idyllic and definitely bring the community together, not matter how bad the bbq…lol! You are right, to be able to see friends/family and share a unique experience is priceless and the tradition of doing it yearly will hold wonderful memories for so many!! That small town feeling is one thing I miss from my town in the US – we had many yearly festivals and traditions and it was always great to catch up with friends. I love Bordeaux for other reasons – but miss events like this. Thanks for sharing – it’s very touching and made me homesick a bit..but happy to have memories like that. Happy Sunday!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Happy Sunday my dear friend! I’m sure you are quite busy with tours these days… Great weather to attract tourists…

      1. americanmominbordeaux says:

        Yes…the tourist season is definitely upon us….Will be working double shift tomorrow – Bordeaux city and then Cadillac & Sauternes. Happy to put extra time in this month – so I can vacation most of next month! (I think I’m turning a bit French – in respect to my love of vacation!) and Yes, the weather has been great – although a bit too hot at times!! Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Yes, can’t wait for Fall to come. You know how much I hate the heat… ☺️

  20. fantastic night-time photos. Sounds like you had a fabulous time! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I did indeed. Alcohol had a big play in it ☺️

  21. Looks so fun! And that BBQ doesn’t look so bad…. I hope to one day visit your area, everything you post is so idyllic!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Life here isn’t perfect but it ain’t bad I must say… I hope I get to welcome you here someday 😉

  22. wow….please keep sharing your life with us!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I will my dear friend. I made myself a promise that I would blog more 🙂

  23. Sandra says:

    Fantastic photos. They really captured the atmosphere.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks my dear Sandra! It was such a lovely evening. Question though: do all the pictures show on your end? They don’t on mine…

      1. Sandra says:

        Yes I see them all.

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Oh great thanks! Nothing worse than blogging for 2 hours to find out nobody can read the bloody post 😉

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