Culture and tradition Naturally, the traces of a history of conquest and exchange can be found in the culture and traditions of the Languedoc region.
Celebrations and traditions
The festival and folkloric tradition of Languedoc is a reflection of its past and its memory: a veritable crucible of multi-ethnic cultures, it has become a land of customs, traditions and folklore offering a number of events throughout the year to its inhabitants and visitors. In Languedoc, celebrations and traditions are celebrated in every way and for the pleasure of all. The Carnival celebrations begin the year.
These differ from town to villages: Limoux make the gestures of the "staticule", Roman saturnals made up using the dregs of wine; Cournonteral and its strawmen recall an ancient war between villages; then there is the festival in Pezenas. Many celebrate the carnival using a giant made from wood or straw which will be finally burned in a public place, for all to see. The Carnival ends in a feast as coloured as the parade floats competing with each other in their extravagance.
Following the carnival, there is the Bear festival, at the foot of the Pyrenees, the dance festivals of Catalan country where the Sardenas entertain each village in the summertime, the Tambourin ball games in the villages of the Herault. There are also celebrations based on countryside customs, for example the Lozère transhumance festival on the Aubrac plateaus, where flocks migrate from one pasture to another to the rhythm of folkloric dances and a celebration of local products.
The region’s passion for bulls and horses is often the origin of many events such as the Corridas and Camargue races, in a much wider context than the ferias people dance, eat and drink until the dawn in these popular festivals. In the Petite Camargue, the summer season is time for celebrations based around two emblematic animals: the Camargue horse and the Camargue bull. The so-called “course à la cocarde” (ribbon races) or Camargue race is an ancient game that takes place in many villages of the Gard and Herault and has become a veritable spectacle. Basically, the aim of players dressed in white is to remove the ribbon attached to the horns of a bull. As well as a celebration of horses and bulls, the Ferias a celebration of music, dance and wine. Nimes, Beziers, Céret and Carcassonne as well as many other towns pulse to the rhythm of the ferias once or twice a year for a week-long festival, during the Pentecost, the 15th of August or during the grape harvest.
Deeply rooted in tradition, and the customs of each area, Languedoc cuisine is harmoniously adapted to the region's relief and is a unique mix of rich, generous gastronomy and a healthy Mediterranean tradition. Languedoc products come from all over the region, from the edges of the Mediterranean to the foot of its mountains. At the edge of the sea, an enormous range of seafood is difficult to choose from, with oysters, mussels, clams, shrimps, etc without even mentioning the numerous Mediterranean fish sought after for their soft flavour: seabass, sea bream, sole, red tuna, eel, etc. All across the plain orchards and gardens bear fruit and vegetables to the harmony of the essential aromas (thyme, rosemary, basil, savoury, laurel) of regional dishes. As we climb the slopes where the vegetation is a little less lush, it is in the woods that we will find treasures: chestnuts and mushrooms etc… Such a wide range of great products obviously inspires excellent local chefs and every single place has its own speciality: in Castelnaudary, their bubbling cassoulet, in Sete the lucious tielle, in Grau du Roi their violent gardianne de taureau puffed with rice from the Camargue, in the Cevennes the goat’s and sheep's cheese, in Pezenas their small marvel of the sweet-and-sour petit paté a favourite of Molière, in Bouzigues their fine and reliable oysters who answer the call every year. Naturally, Languedoc AOCs are a marvellous accompaniment for each one of these products and dishes for the greatest pleasure of your taste buds… for more information see « Wines and food » and « Route of wines and wine tourism sites ».
Another witness to the Languedoc cultural identity, regional handcrafts, still play a delicate role in the balance between tradition and creation providing a unique visual and sensory experience. In such an exceptional concentration of handcrafts one can discover or even rediscover know-how that has crossed the ages and has been adapted to contemporary requirements. The textile industry was once responsible for a rich era of this region. In Saint Laurent de Cerdans in the Pyrenees, a number of textile mills and traditional shoemakers developed in the 19th century. The Museum of popular art and traditions bears witness to this period. In the Cevennes, silk touched the lives of the towns and villages and left a number of traces as can be seen at the Vallées Cévenoles Museum and the silk Museum in Saint Hippolyte du Fort. From Saint Hippolyte du Fort to Saint Jean du Gard passing Monoblet, the remains of this shiny past can still be seen in places such as the Gréfeuille spinning mills in the Gard or the Calquières spinning mills of Lozere where one can witness the successive stages of creating silk. In the Herault, there is the Manufacture Nationale de Tapis (National carpet manufacturer) in Lodeve. We must not forget the “Nimes cotton weave” made famous by a certain Bavarian emigrant called Levi Strauss. In Vallabregues in the Gard, you can discover traditional basket weavers. The baskets were originally used for agriculture along time ago. The surroundings of Perpignan gleam with jewellery in all its shapes and forms made from gernat extracted from the Pyrenees. The glazed vases of Anduze, the mecca of ceramic tradition, were used to decorate the Orangery of Versailles during the reign of Louis XIV and continue to travel all over the world. In the Gard, Saint-Quentin la Poterie is once again the home to potters who have returned to create the "Maison de la Terre" (Earth house). In the Herault, creative potters are potting Saint Jean de Fos and surrounding villages on the map. In the hinterlands of the Herault, the six communities of the Causse de l’Hortus have joined to recreate the glassworks tradition along the Chemin des Verriers (glassmakers trail). Discover the art of glassmaking throughout the centuries. Finally, the tradition of books and paper is celebrated every year in Montolieu in the north-west of Carcassonne. In the world of literature, this is the fourth most important village in Europe. Among antique books, works of art, comic strips or even encyclopaedias, in this village of books and graphic arts visitors can experience the love for books, through the pages, the streets and the bookshops of the village with its Museum of graphic art and craft.
Painters, poets, writers, singers etc… many have been born, have lived or simply stayed in Languedoc but all have left their imprint and historical mark on the region. In the field of literature, the most famous writers are from ancient times: the Greek historians Strabon and Polybe, the originality and talent of Rabelais and Molière, and Racine who, in 1662, was sent to his uncle's place in Uzes only to be inspired by the southern skies - "We have nights more beautiful than your days”. Paul Valery came from Sete. He was the disciple of Mallarmé and friend to Gide and would enter the world of literature in a time of symbolism. More recent writers include Andre Chamson, Jean-Pierre Chabrol, Claude Simon and Jean Rouaud. In music, two of the greatest French song writers come from the region and are still celebrated today: Georges Brassens, from the public benches of Sete and Charles Trenet from Narbonne. Painters have always been attracted to the south especially some of the more well-known artists: Matisse would create a new style, fauvism, following a stay at Collioure in 1905. Later, Céret would begin the cubism with Manolo, Picasso and Braque. And finally, Frederic Bazille, the famous Languedoc painter, would begin the Impressionist movement at the beginning of the century, and even today Di Rosa and Viala, creating geometric and repetitive expressions of life, Soulage and his great works of knife sculptures, are all making a name for themselves in contemporary art. Bioules, Brayer, Miranda, Doumergue have all expressed the violent contrasts of the Languedoc landscape. In the great art museums of Montpellier and Perpignan as well as the Carré d’Art in Nimes, the museum of modern Art in Céret, galleries and other exhibition centres in Sète, Agde etc are often proof of this regional artistic richness. Source :The Languedoc-Roussillon regional committee of tourism Consult our bibliography