Actually, first there's the makeup. Mothers and fathers, dipping into trays of facepaint, turn a few classroomsful of tykes into shooting stars, black holes (!), astronauts, rocket ships and aliens. All the while, the drumbeats and singing grow more persistent and compelling as the musicians approach the school.
I was intially dubious about the little black holes, secretly pitying them in their dreary garb. With their dyed T-shirts ripped into long strands, they resembled depressed--perhaps even seasick--octopus. But of course their teacher had a plan. The five-year old black holes held hands with the stars and the astronauts, coiling their way through the crowd. Every time their teacher yelled "Big Bang!" they scattered in all directions, their costumes swirling away from their bodies. And then they would all return to orbit her beaming, painted face.
Earlier in the week, it felt like high school again, only with a better soundtrack: we parents were creating the two and a half meter high alien, this year's unlucky Pétassou, which you can see here on the float, being hauled by tractor.
Today, in many parts of southern France, the ritual of Pétassou has evolved into something a bit more Guy Fawkesian in approach. An effigy is made, who represents all the things that went wrong with the world in the past year. The older children shout accusations, point fingers--and condemn him. This time, one girl yelled about having to leave to go to junior high. Another blamed the Pétassou for her father being in a wheelchair. The accusations can be highly specific or quite general. There was blaming over the war in Libya, the tsunami in Japan--and global warming. Regardless of the charge, the ruling was the same: burning, no chance for appeal. Next, the cardboard rockets and other costumes were dumped on the brush and branches, then the fire is lit. A Pétassou in effigy still feels pretty pagan.
pastis on the rocks with a generous splash of water, which magically turns the clear amber alcohol creamily opaque.* It's an acquired taste, which many around here seem to have fully acquired. It also makes for limber dancing.
Fernandel (vaudeville actor and singer from Marseille)