Thursday, May 22, 2008

Origin of the Kermesse

The Kermesse, or fun fair, traditionally emphasizes French language and culture, if not more generally a cultural heritage. Until the 1960’s the German-Catholic community celebrated the Kermesse in K-W. Still further back in history, it was in celebration focused on the local Catholic parish, held annually on the day the parish was established.
In the French Flanders, in Belgium and in the Netherlands, a kermesse is an annual public event or fair celebrating the patron saint of a village, or in aid of the local school. A tradition which dates back to the Middle Ages, Flemish painters from Brueghel the Elder to Rubens painted kermesse scenes; they became a genre which contributed to the renown of the Flemish school. Religious in origin - kerkimesse in Flemish means“ mass for the church” - the events surrounding the consecration of the church or the feast of the patron saint, were gradually secularized. From the 13th to the 20th centuries, across the different regions, the kermesse became at once, a harvest festival, a day of feasting, a dance in the main square, a funfair and form of popular entertainment, as well as an end of school carnival, rallying the entire community, and involving both the public and private spheres. To this day, in northern France, in Belgium and in Holland, these remain living traditions which reflect both regional variety and cultural unity: they allow people to take leisure in ways that are not strictly governed by commerce but rather by community.

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