LA FÊTE DU CITRON® : A LONG STORY
At the beginning of the century, Menton created this event simply because of the common carnivals tradition. In the 30s, the town plays the original and the citrus fruits appear...
A carnival to animate the town >>>
In 1895, a few hotel owners proposed the Local Council to create a carnival parade in order to animate the town in winter. Since 1896 the Carnival of Menton seduces its inhabitants and its rich winter tourists. At the time, it was very fashionable to spend winter in a region like Côte d’Azur, where the climate was clement and nice. Kings, princes and artists frequently visited the palaces of Menton and built here their beautiful villas. The 1882 carnival stays in the memory of the town: Queen Victoria came to see the festival, which ended with a wonderful firework in the Garabvan bay. The carnival of Menton then became as famous as the one in Nice: parades of big heads, throwing of confetti, flower battles … And on Shrove Tuesday His Majesty the Carnival was burnt … It was a traditional Carnival, a popular town “fête”, with banquets and excesses of any kind, the ones people indulge into before Lent.
The “Moucouleti” tradition >>>
During the evening of the second parade – called “corso” -, people from Menton give themselves to the traditional entertainment of the “Moucouleti” or “Moccoletti”, small candles they hold in their hands. The game consists in keeping your flame on and blowing off the one of your neighbour! It’s a pretext game for love meetings, just like in the tale “Short Story of the carnivals of Menton” by Pierre Masséna: “In this game the young man, using all of his skills, has to try and blow off the candle of the young girl, who has her candle above her head with the calumet lighted. When the young man succeed he can light the darkened wick again and have a thanks kiss.”
The lemon enters the dance >>>
In 1929, Menton is still the main lemon producer of the continent. The owner of a hotel had the idea of organising a flower and citrus fruits exhibition in the gardens of the Hotel Riviera. It had such a huge success that the following year the festival was held in the streets: parade floats with lemon and orange trees showing off together with the charming Menton girls. The Municipality, which hoped to develop the tourist trade, tried to give the Carnival a typical local aspect: the Fête du Citron® was born in 1934. Two years later, the first citrus fruit and flower exhibition was opened in the Biovès gardens. François Ferrié was in charge of conceiving the orange and lemon look of the parade floats and the motives of the gardens. It was a success confirmed in the following years.
Further readings >>>
M’en avisou… Menton during the Belle Epoque by Charles Martini de Châteauneuf
Menton and the Lemon Festival by Frank Ricordel. Serre Ed./L’Ancre Solaire.
(source : dossier de presse de l'Office du Tourisme de Menton)