The "Grands Feux", Ardennes' oldest tradition

Manon Vanschepdael | Live the World

November 23, 2022

Have you ever heard about the "Grands feux" in the Ardennes ? It's an ancestral tradition, taking place every year in February and March in lots of villages in the Ardennes. This event symbolizes the purification and the return of spring and light.

A long time ago, during the winter, at the end of the day, the family gathered around the fireplace. At that time could evenings seem endless. Everyone was only waiting for February, the month announcing the light's comeback, to show up. The first day of Lent, in every town, villagers staged a big fire. Everyone brought logs in order to build a big fire, topped with a dummy. Every village's purpose was to light a fire as big as possible, and most importantly bigger than the neighbours'. As early as the fire started, did the celebration begin.

Going through time, this event ended up a bit different. Now, each villages's organisers still want to show off the biggest fire but the biggest party as well! Depending on the town, you might find spectacles with jugglers or magicians, contests of the most beautiful costume, concerts, or dj sets ...

Last weekend, I decided to give Gedinne's "Grand Feu" a try. While it was supposed to start at 8 pm, the fire was only lit after a 30 minutes wait, luckily accompanied by a warm wine. A entertainer was playing live music, people were drinking and talking. The problem, when you plan a big fire in February, is the weather, it might end up being very cold or even snowing during the event! Last year, the fire couldn't be lit and therefore were villagers afraid that it would predict a bad summer... This year however, the fire started right and the dummy burned! I believe I have been lucky for my first edition!

If you decide to discover this ancestral tradition, don't worry, you will have no trouble finding some place to eat and drink (a lot!), nevertheless, I recommend you to dress up warmly.

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