Discover the traditions of Gascony
Throughout the year, discover the festive life of old Gascony…
The question visitors most often ask us concerns the decorated trees that you see everywhere in the area.
This custom, particular to Chalosse and the Landes in general, consists in erecting "Mais," maritime pines adorned with flowers and other unusual objects, on the night of 30 April (in the Gascon language, the festival is called "Mayade"). They are set up in front of the house of their recipients, while the person living there is out. If anyone receives one, they have to organize a meal, inviting all those who took part in the design and installation of the "Mai."
You will often see them here and there next to a dwelling, a neighbourhood, a town... The "Mais" are today the occasion to honour personalities, elected officials, friends, neighbours and family members. It is customary to erect the Mais in certain circumstances to show appreciation or friendship on specific occasions, such as a marriage, birthday or retirement.
This convivial tradition is today a great excuse for a party!
October, Dove hunting "the Blue Madness!"
In the autumn, the leaves fall, the cold settles in, and it's rugby and basketball matches that entertain the locals. The mushrooms appear and, the dove hunters impatiently await the month of October to start blasting away!
While some are preparing for winter sports holidays, others set their sights on dove season.
According to the families of these hunters, the hunt is almost like a disease, which they call the "blue madness!" It is not dangerous but definitely contagious ... It lasts a few months, plus another couple of weeks while the hunters prepare the hunting grounds in the forest, and all the equipment necessary - most importantly a gas cooker to prepare the omelet, a coffee maker, a few cans of local preserves and a few bottles for the aperitif ... The hunters meet up, often inviting friends, with whom they proudly share their passion. During this month of October, these men with a mission spend their days in the natural world, eating and laughing together like old times
But ... hush, it's n laughing matter when the bird appears, and everyone lines up their gun....
Hunting in the Landes is truly an art of camouflage and imitation but also and above all a real art of living, this one inimitable!
The Christmas bonfire
In December, the Hailhe de Nadau, is the secular, or pagan, tradition of Chalosse, where fires were lit from hill to hill on Christmas Eve.
It was customary in certain villages and neighbourhoods to build a fire as a ritual of protection. A large brazier was constructed with torches all around the fields to protect the wheat or rye sown since St. Martin's day against the rigours of winter.
There are many theories about its origins - the fire lit by the shepherds of Bethlehem to warm the infant Jesus, a reminder of the star heralding his birth or perhaps the pagan festival of the sun, celebrated during the winter solstice.
Today, this tradition continues, although perhaps with less belief in the protective ritual, but rather the pleasure of gathering with family, friends, neighbours around a great bonfire. We talk, we sing, we sometimes play music, we drink to Christmas and we take delight to see a countryside strewn with fire, sparkling, warm and "shaded with joy."
Today, certain towns or villages like Saint-Sever keep this tradition going by holding their own Haihle on the central square, with a glass of mulled wine.
Watch the embers fly like sparkling stars and shine the eyes of children of all ages. A tradition we'd like to see continue!
An ancestral game is still played all around our region - nine pin skittles is an original sport with roots in the South-west!
This traditional game, nowadays not very widespread but still very much enjoyed, arouses a great deal of passion among older players, as well as a new generation of enthusiasts.
The origin of nine pin skittles is little known, but it seems that the game was played in the 15th or the 16th century in the Béarn region, before spreading across all the South-west of France in the 19th century.
Small villages such as Lahosse, Castelnau, Chalosse, Arboucave and Poudenxall have a 9-pin bowling alley in the village centre!
During your stay, why not drop in at one of these "plantiers" (the name of these skittle alleys) where the enthusiasts introduce you to the game. You play on a square of clay or grass outdoors. The nine pins are made of beech and the ball is made of walnut wood.
Just to add a bit of local diversity, the game as it is played in Chalosse only uses six skittles!
It's your turn try this highly original sport of South-western France in Landes Chalosse.