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Pezenas: Le Poulain festival South France

pezenas poulain festival languedoc2


Le Poulain festival or Carnival, is held in the historic town of Pezenas, South France, at the start of Lent in late February or early March. The festival features a symbolic horse (Le Poulain), reputed to represent the favourite foal of the King of France, who was cared for by the town, when the King was engaged in a Crusade against the Cathars in 1226. Le Poulain is pushed through the old streets of Pezenas (usually by the rugby team of Pezenas) accompanied by a local flute and drum band as well as plenty of beer and pastis.




Poulain festival Pezenas France



This a mock horse, is constructed of a cloth head draped over a wooden frame. Underneath, there are 8 burly rugby players who make the horse dance up and down the streets. The history of Le Poulain festival dates back to 1226 when a foal was born to the favourite mare of King Louis VIII.

The appearance of Le Poulain festival kicks off a five-day Mardi-Gras festival in Pezenas, which is one of the highlights of the Languedoc festival calendar. On the Friday night before Mardi Gras, there is a giant party in Pezenas, called the Soiree blanche, where everyone is dressed in white nightgowns, Doctor's jackets or White boiler suits and just general mayhem ensues. 

On the Saturday night, there is a big party held in the Maison du Peuple, with live music and a DJ and all the local bars are absolutely thronged.

During the day on Sunday, there is large feast in the town called the Rogout L'Escoubille. There is no direct translation of this word, but it means food scraps or food scavenged from the bins. The feast involves a cookery competition where around 20 different families compete to make a delicious ragout stew, using just simple ingredients and leftovers. Around 500 people attend the event (held in the courtyard of the local town hall) and it is followed by a big party with a sound system and plenty of wine, beer and pastis. The festival ends when Le Poulain makes an appearance at the festival.


pezenas carnival france


The Monday night celebrations take over the whole town and are usually pretty raucous. Without doubt it is the highlight of the year for the young people of Pezenas. I can honestly say that I have not seen so many drunk French people in one place. The participants are usually decked out in white night shirts and the purple colours of the local rugby team.

Tuesday is the day of the Mardi Gras. This is when Le Poulain, the town's totemic animal, is most readily brought out onto the streets. The Poulain, weaves its way down narrow medieval streets, followed by a procession of people wearing disguises and fancy dress. A lot of the townsfolk ignore the modern trend for elaborate costumes and continue to wear the “panel” (a white nightgown).

The Tuesday carnival is also just as lively as the Monday night and features all the local children indulging in a giant flour, eggs and shaving foam fight all through the streets. There is never any trouble, everyone is just having a grand old time.



Le Poulain Pezenas Languedoc festival

Le Poulain is probably one of the most unusual and fun Languedoc festivals to visit if you get the chance. You will usually catch the Poulain festival in Pezenas towards the middle to end of February, to coincide with Lent.

Le Poulain is featured in our selection of the Best Languedoc festivals. For more information on the Le Poulain festival see the Pezenas tourism website.

If you are looking for a house or apartment to rent in Pezenas, please see Go Languedoc's selection of Pezenas vacation rentals.



Where to next . . . ?

iain pink smallIf you are looking for ideas about what to do and see during your stay in Pezenas, as well as some great places to stay, the following articles will be useful reading:

If you would like some more detailed information about renting in Pezenas, France, then just drop us a quick message and we will come straight back to you. I wish you a wonderful stay in the South of France. 

Contact Iain by Email or by phone +33 6 95 00 28 44


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