Join in these village festivals, such as the “Lo Halha de Nadau” to mark the winter solstice. The most well-known are in Bazas en Gironde, Montfort-en-Chalosse and Saint Sever in the Landes.
The tradition in our countrysides is that during “Lo Halha de Nadau”, a giant sheaf of straw and corn leaves is set alight and the villagers, brandishing burning torches (blandous in the Limousin region) set off in procession around the fields to encourage the wheat and rye harvest, or around their houses to chase away evil spirits. The procession ends when they arrive at church for midnight mass.
Set off to meet Olentzero, a legendary Basque character you're sure to bump into as you drive through the Basque Country.
Olentzero, which means “Christmas time”, is orginally from the Bidassoa valley, between Navarre and Guipúzcoa, where for centuries "charbonniers", or coal merchants, transformed wood into coal. Olentzero, the coal merchant, lives in the mountains.
He is THE main Christmas character in the Pays Basque and once a year he goes to every town and village to hand out logs to the poor as winter sets in and Christmas draws near. Olentzero, the bearded coal merchant with a black face, also digs deep into his sack for sweets and treats eagerly awaited by the children.
The kids adore him so much that they continue to celebrate and sing his praises in almost forgotten traditional lullabies that are now top of the Christmas charts. Basque Country beliefs say that Olentzero brings the light... He can also be spotted, going door to door, on a Pottok (the small wild ponies found in the Basque Country).
Bayonne, Bidart, Saint Jean de Luz : December 22, 2019