Friday night was November 5–for those who missed that memo–and I was invited to a bonfire! Not just any bonfire though, it was in celebration of Guy Fawkes Night. This British holiday might seem a little out-of-place in France, but not in Merceuil. Which is where I found myself happily surrounded by people from Ireland, Scotland, New Zealand and of course England. I guess I can’t leave out that there were also two Frenchman (we are in France after all) and many bi-lingual children (a result of French school and English-speaking parents) in attendance.
So that we are all on the same page here: I had been invited to the house of Ben and Libbi Leroux. This is the family where my friend Liz (the one who got me on the Au Pair track) had been an Au Pair the year before. Libbi is from England and Ben is a French winemaker in Beaune. Their friends are from the above mentioned countries but they all work, live and raise their children in France.
So I arrive Friday night and am immediately greeted by children running around the side yard. In the distance I can see the prepared bon fire and notice a scarecrow-like man on top of the wood pile. I didn’t think much of it until Libbi pointed out that she hopes the kids don’t get the idea that burning a person is OK! Uhh..yeah, me neither!! But the man stayed put because that is the tradition of the evening…
For those who are as clueless to this as I was, in 1605 a man tried to burn down the House of Lords in an attempt to assassinate the Protestant King. The attempt was a big fail and the people involved were accused of high treason and thus hanged, drawn and quartered. So it is English tradition–even if you live in France–to have a bon fire and light fireworks on November 5th.
The night ended up being exactly what I needed. Hearing and speaking English while relaxing with a bowl of pumpkin soup and chatting with bi-lingual kids (and adults) was a great pick-me-up during a week when I was a bit homesick.