A resident of Salency in the Oise department of northern France has decided to bring back the village's historic “Fete de la Rosiere” (“Festival of the Maiden”) event, first launched in the year 456.
The festival honours the “virtuous reputation” of a young woman aged 14-20 and was held in Salency until 1987.
Now Bertrand Tribout, the president of the Brotherhood of Saint-Médard, the saint who apparently started the festival, is re-launching the event which is set to take place on June 2nd, 2019.
The program will include mass in the morning and a celebration and coronation in the afternoon.
The winning “maiden” will be escorted by a procession of 12 young girls and boys through the village.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Tribout had to do his fair share of convincing to get the authorities to agree to reviving the event.
It is a “somewhat outdated” event, the mayor of Selancy, Hervé Deplanque told Le Parisien, adding to BFM TV that he has received “hundreds of emails” from indignant residents.
Selancy's population seem to be particularly put out by the selection criteria for the title, with the young women, according to the rules, expected to have irreproachable conduct, virtue, piety and virginity.
Last year, Bertrand Tribout, who organised his first Fete de la Rosiere in 1971 when he himself was just 17-year-old, promised that there would be “no medical examination” to verify this last selection criterion.
He has insisted that this is part of the “heritage of the village” adding that the event “values femininity”.
For him, this holiday is above all “very charming, rural and fun”.
“We want to celebrate the true integrity of the young woman, the fact that she is kind to her family and loved ones, that she is ready to help others,” he said. “This is what makes our village unique – it would be a shame not to keep it.”
And since the complaints, he has tried to put a stop to the controversy by ensuring that the “virtue” of the Rosiere does not “correspond to chastity or virginity”.
Nevertheless, he may have a long fight ahead if he wants the festival to actually see the light of day, with feminist association Les Effronté-e-s planning to make a complaint that will prevent the event from being held.
“We will make these girls realise that behaving normally is considered impure (according to this festival's values),” spokesperson for the group Fatima Benomar told the French press. “It's traumatic and stigmatising”.
According to Franceinfo, the mayor is worried that the image of his village has been “sullied” by the controversy and is already considering cancelling the festival.
“The municipality has never really agreed to the organization of this festival,” he said.