On Tuesday of this past week (March 20), I was away from the village for most of the morning, but Radio Free Daglan’s Chief Staff Photographer — my wife, Jan — was not only at home, but on the ball.
So she was able to attend that springtime event for school children from Daglan and surrounding villages, which always ends with burning an effigy of a bad person — yes, le méchant Pétassou.
I’ve written about this annual event several times, so I’ll keep the details to a minimum here. My first postings on the subject were on April 10 and 11, 2011, in a two-part piece called “The judgement of the children.”
Here’s what I wrote back then, as Jan and I tried to figure out just what was going on — as costumed children marched past our home, following a strange figure perched in a tractor:
Believe me, it wasn’t easy finding a coherent story, and I checked newspaper articles, other blogs, Wikipedia, our Mayor’s newsletter, and more. What I learned is that Pétassou is a sorcerer, a prototype of Harlequin (Arlequin, in French), a legend, an evil man. He is often associated with rags, and may be pictured as a man covered in all sorts of rags. In one blog, the Pétassou made by the school children in another French village was an octopus. In some stories, Pétassou is responsible for all the crimes that have taken place in an area for a whole year.
But whatever the details, whatever the truth of the legend, the central point is that Pétassou is a bad character, and must be punished.
With that background, here’s a look at this year’s event, starting with the parade down Daglan’s main street:
In the next photo, you’ll get a closer look at the Pétassou figure, including tree branches for arms:
And here’s a look at a small part of the parade through the village, with parents and teachers walking along with the school children, all in various costumes (but including a fair number of insects):
The participants, young and old, really seem to get into the spirit of the event. Here are two teachers from the kindergarten-level school (nursery school) in the village of Castelnaud:
As you can see, there was quite a crowd for the event, when all the participants gather at the village’s Salle des fêtes and start singing traditional songs — and putting the blame for all-things-bad on you-know-who:
This year there was a special participant in the songfest — one of Daglan’s better known senior citizens, who is regularly seen walking slowly through the village using a cane in each hand, and keeping a close eye on his little black and white dog as they go. Here he is, singing into his own microphone:
Eventually the crowd was treated to the sight of the Pétassou figure starting to burn — a consequence, of course, of all his crimes. Here the flames begin:
And then the flames rose up and consumed Pétassou completely, as you’ll see:
I have to say that a lot of effort goes into this event — on the part of the parents and teachers, making costumes, teaching the songs to the children, and so on. And from what I have seen at past events, the kids enjoy it all.