Monday, January 24, 2005

Saint Vincent (or getting very drunk part 1)

Saturday was the day of Saint Vincent. What is special about Saint Vincent is that he's the Patron Saint of wine. (The giveaway is in the Vin of Vincent).

Mr Frog's family are wine producers. More especially, champagne producers. As you can imagine this brings many benefits... and on Saint Vincent this means a lot of celebration.

The day began at 10h00 as we strolled in the bright, cold sunshine to the village church. The village has 400 inhabitants and they and the neighbouring villages were packed into the small church for the service. I don't know if it's my hormones at the moment (and I hadn't started on the champagne yet) but the service was extremely moving. The proceedings began with a procession led by two young children holding a pannier of brioche & champagne followed by the figure of Saint Vincent held high and a troupe of representative members from the different producing families in the parish. Each was dressed in a green cloak and black casquette for the men and beige chapeau with ribbons for the women carrying standards from the three producing domains in the parish.

Last year was a bumper harvest year (and I had made my small contribution cutting grapes last September). This was the largest volume harvested in most people's living memory and the quality of the grapes was remarkably high (quality is measured by high percentage of natural alcoholic value in the grape juice). So there was much to be thankful for at the service. Everyone in the church makes their living directly or indirectly by the results of the land. Sometimes you forget in the city how people's livelihood's are still determined by the such basic things as the weather.

The village priest was clearly an old hand at this service. I was impressed by how he very clearly asserted the need for everyone to remember that whilst theirs was much to rejoice, this should also be used to help others. There were specific remarks to farming communities in Africa who are suffering through famine, Aids & enduring great poverty.

Following hymns, (it's all very well having the words on the order of service but I never know the music, so I just try and catch on quick to the chorus!) mass and a final blessing the congregation spilled out into the winter sunshine and we all made our way to the village hall.

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