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Customs, traditions and folklore in Houffalize

Customs, traditions and folklore in Houffalize

1 . Customs and traditions

One of the most old traditions is surely the « Foire de Sainte Catherine » ; Holy Catherina of Alexandria is the protector of the parish church and is celebrated on the 25th of November. This fair was created in 1388, granted by Jean de Bohême, Count of Luxembourg.

Many dealers and hawkers sold food ,farm- and farm-yards animals at this fair. The fair stopped in 1938 before the second world war ; it began again in 1950 but stopped again in 1960.

In 1975, on the 22nd of November, the tourist bureau and the association of tradesmen restored this fair. Now, it is one of the most favourite events for the inhabitants. They have fun to meet friends and to attend the competition of the largest « Magneu d’jotte »* or the election of Miss Catherinette** ; the winner is a girl of 25 years, unmarried and with the most original hat.

* « Les Magneus d’jotte » or eaters of white cabbage is the nickname given to the inhabitants of Houffalize.

Why ? Because, at the end of the 19th century, many waggons full of white cabbages were stopped in the station of Houffalize. The countrymen said : « les Bordjeus, c’est vraimin des magneus d’jotte !! » (the inhabitants of Houffalize are really cabbageeaters)

(« Bordjeu » means inhabitant of the borough, Houffalize had the title of city)

In 1976, the confraternity of the « crasse d’jotte » was created ; the members meet on the Sunday of the fair of Holy Catherina, round about the 25th of November

** The expression « coiffer Ste Catherine » means wearing a distinguished hat in order to attrack the look of a possible lover.


2. The village fairs

More simply called « li fiesse »in Walloon, this fair traced back very far in the past. In Houffalize, we have two fairs. The first called the great fair is taking place on the Sunday of the Corpus Christi, 15 days after Whit-Sunday. The second, the small fair, is taking place on the 15th of August, day of the Assumption. On these days, there were travelling shows as well as religious processions. These processions were created before 1330 in Houffalize.

These processions left the church an walked through the streets of the city. Sometimes, they stopped at some temporary altars for the blessing. The streets were decorated with « mai » (young poplar- or birch-trees) and the inhabitants placed a small altar with the statue of the Blessed Virgin or a cross before their house or at the window. Petals of flowers were spread over the streets. « L’Harmonie Royale des Bords de l’Ourhe »*** opened the procession ; then came the children, girls and boys carrying statues of the Virgin and of other holies. The choral and the pilgrims followed. The priest carried the monstrance. The latest procession took place in 1982.

***L’Harmonie Royale des Bords de l’Ourthe (musical band) was created in 1829 and played at all the manifestations and commemorative prayers in Houffalize . In particular at the « torchlight tatoos »which took place on the Saturday evening, preceding the local fair.