Moonfest in Lauragais

The moon in Lauragais is the same moon as seen anywhere in the world, but once a month in Lauragais, it takes on a special significance.

Julie and I first met in 1993, when we were working in the Sultanate of Oman. It wasn’t until 1996 that we started ‘going out together’, which means becoming boyfriend and girlfriend, and in August 2003 we decided to get married.

The next question was ‘where shall we go for our honeymoon?’ We couldn’t decide. Then, some friends who live in Sri Lanka invited us to visit them, and that became our honeymoon destination.

We had a wonderful time, travelling around the island, learning about tea, enjoying long railway rides, visiting botanical gardens and photographing bridges. Seventy per cent of the population of Sri Lanka is Buddhist, and Poya, the day of the full moon, is a national holiday.

When we learnt this we were thrilled by the idea; we aren’t Buddhist, but we have always liked seeing the full moon, and the special light that it gives. We decided to celebrate the full moon every month, and to call it ‘Moonfest’.

On one side of La Selve is a meadow ( un pré) which gives us a good view of the village, on a ridge ( une arête) to the east. Every month, on the right day at the right time, we stand in the meadow waiting for the moon to rise over the ridge. Sometimes we have dinner in the field, but if the weather is bad we have dinner in a different part of the house, or we try a new recipe or go out to dinner.

On one famous occasion, we went to one of our favourite restaurants in a village nearby. The owner, who was also the chef, greeted us in French, and I replied “Happy Moonfest”. Naturally he was a little surprised, so I explained all about Moonfest. He liked the idea, and as other diners arrived he said “Happy Moonfest” to them. Soon everybody in the bar was saying “Happy Moonfest” to each other, and we started to hear people explaining the story to others and people agreeing that it was a good idea. Groups of people were going out into the street to look at the moon and agree “Yes it is full tonight”, and a new chorus of “Happy Moonfest” broke out.

The chef had disappeared, but came back to announce that it was time for people to go into the dining room “but” he said “because it’s Moonfest, I have moved all the tables, so that everybody can eat together” We had a wonderful evening, many of the people were strangers at the beginning, but by the time the restaurant closed we had made a large group of new friends.

Sometimes Moonfest occurs when we have visitors; either friends, family or people who have come to La Selve to study English. All of them are introduced to our strange habit of celebrating the full moon; most enjoy the occasion, some even like it enough to continue when they go home. We now have fellow ‘moonfesters’ in other parts of France, elsewhere in Europe and as far away as New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and the United States.

Who knows, you may even find that you start noticing when the moon becomes full.

Moonfest in Lauragais

Ted