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Coutumes (Customs)

There is something about browsing old libraries: The opportunity to bring back to light books that no electronic index would refer to you unless you asked specifically for it. The university of St Thomas in St Paul, MN is more than 100 years old, and when entering it you are meant to find some of those marvels. My discovery of the week: Coutumes Françaises d’hier et d’aujourdui, by M. S Pargment, D. C. Heath and Company, 1932.



It is written at a time where the traditional France is disappearing, people are gathering in cities, dialects disappear, and customs become more and more uniforms through the effect of the wireless, “la TSF”. Browsing the book brings back to memory the fact that not so long ago France was only unified politically, and people were first “Bretons” or “Provençaux” before being French. This book tries to recollect traditional customs around the calendar year, and the text does a good job linking those customs to specific geographic areas. It cannot be exhaustive, and customs collected are probably those practised (or remembered) at the beginning of the 20th century. It is sad to see how few survived to this day.


marchand de gui

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