The Pfifferdaj: more than 600 years of tradition in the French region of Alsace

Floriane - 28/06/13 -

This article is in English. Click here to read it in French.

Dragons, knights, vagabonds and troubadours overrun Ribeauvillé, a little lost village in the Alsace vineyards, during the festival of Ménétriers: the Pfifferdaj, the oldest festival of Alsace.

This traditional festival that puts the Middle Ages on show is held on the first Sunday of September.

Born from a legend, the public festival preserves the links between the lords of Rieaupierre and the minstrels.

It all happens at the Franco-German border

The Pfifferdaj consists of a medieval market, a fairground fête, various balls, a great float procession with jugglers, fire-eaters, drums, fanfares…

Each year, the theme of the parade is different, however always remains linked to the Middle Ages.

In the villages neighbouring Ribeauvillé, the festival is impatiently awaited each year by tourists and the villagers, but above all by those who make an unforgettable event of this festival: the groups who construct the floats.

For more than two months, the groups come together in an enormous warehouse, and, over the course of these days, the floats take shape.

The preparations for a French festival

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An incredible ambiance permeates the air of the hangar: the people are lovely, and everybody works while chatting together.

Floriane-28/06/13 Shannon Guy - 27/06/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.orgThough the atmosphere is industrious during the day, it’s in the evening that the festival happens. After all, as we say here “après l’effort, le réconfort” (‘put your feet up after a hard day’s work’)! After a hard day’s labour sculpting, shaping, carrying, casting and sawing, it’s time to let yourself go, to dance and to have a party.

On J Day, ‘le Jour J’, the famous Sunday in the month of September, half the participants have been partying into the early morning. At eight o’clock, with no time to sleep, the participants meet up to do their hair, apply their makeup, and to get dressed. And yes, the makeup is sometimes necessary for certain people… the author of this article knows all about that!

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A very unusual day in France

During this restless day, you can listen to and see all sorts of musical events in the Grande Rue and in all the squares of Ribeauvillé. You’ll also be able to discover a small medieval market located in a large traditional Alsatian courtyard.

A stroll through Ribeauvillé will allow you to admire the timber-panelled houses, the famous Tower of the Butchers… Make the most of this opportunity to discover the village from a different perspective!

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At 3pm, a fateful moment, the procession starts. For around three hours, more than 25 000 people – including Germans, English, Swiss and even Australians – come to admire the floats, the groups on foot, the fanfares. These colourful characters make the town come alive.

Hundreds of participants, dressed in faithfully reconstructed medieval costumes, take part in the procession, and make it an unforgettable event in Alsace.

Floriane - 28:06:13

Floriane-28/06/13 Shannon Guy - 27/06/13 - www.MyFrenchLife.orgWhen the French turn water into wine

At the end of the procession, in the town square, it’s no longer water that flows from the fountain, but white wine. Ribeauvillé is, in essence, a wine-making village, which is why the wine-growers join the festival and make the wine flow freely.

If you’ve been seduced by this account, the only thing left for you to do is to keep the date free and make your way to the magical event of this Alsatian town.

So, see you there?

Have you been to this amazing festival? Share your experience in the comments, below!

Image credits:
1, 5 & 7. Les meilleures photos du Pfifferdaj 2012 by Vanessa Meyer Wirckel in Alsace.
2. La Delirium Tribu 
3. Courtesy of Mathieu Bihl
4. Courtesy of Henry Kuegler via Facebook.
6. Le Pfifferdaj du roi Arthur en images by Julien Kaufmann in the DNA.
8. Fontaine de Ribeauvillé via Wikipedia. 

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Floriane Baldinger

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One Comment

  1. Elise Mellor Aug 13, 2014 at 5:32 PM - Reply

    This looks incredible!!
    There are zombies and knights and warriors leather codpieces – it’s like Game of Thrones – in France!
    I would love to be in France next month… Just to go to this.

    It reminds me of a festival I went to in Geneva in December of 2000. I think it only happens once every few years but it was amazing – everyone dressed up in Medieval costume, with music, a bonfire and vin chaud and wooden bowls of rustic stew and chunky bread. I can’t remember the name of it now, can anyone help me??

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