Today is the fourth of October, and for those not in the know, it celebrates the Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Why would a reformed Catholic like myself have any inkling that this date has ties to an animal-loving, robed and haloed guy of the blessed persuasion?
Because in the village of Baie Lazare honoring St. Francis means Party Time … note the capital “P” capital “T”, and break out the beer!
Yes, this weekend … since the actual feast day falls during the week … will see festivities unlike any to be had over the rest of the year in this village on the south end of the island of Mahé, and preparations are as well under way as they can be in a place where few things are really ever prepared. Bamboo frames are in place at the church, and by Sunday, maybe, they’ll be covered in coconut leaves to be used as booths for gambling games, food stalls and purveyors of alcoholic beverages at prices higher than those charged at the shops just down the hill.
People dressed to the nines will coming by the bus- and car-load from all over the island for this, one of the biggest fetes on Mahé, and as soon as Mass is over, hundreds of people will be cruising the booths, visiting, gossiping, flirting, playing games and, yes, drinking.
The police will be out in small force directing traffic, asking those who tend to hover rather than park to move along. Those watching closely may notice that some urged back behind the wheel by officers of the law impatient with the choice of stopping spots have a beer or a plastic cup of whiskey in hand, and clearly more inside, but it will be moving along that’s required, nonetheless.
A great deal of slow circulating will go on around the church, as groups move in one direction by the various offerings of food, drink and entertainment, then shift to the other direction for a while in hopes of coming across someone they’ve not yet shared all the latest with. As the day gets hotter, shady spots will be taken by old ladies and young children and everyone but the ‘tweens and teens will be slowing down considerably.
By the evening, the ear-splitting music and over-amplified voices will have stopped and most folks will have drifted away toward home. What will be left will be a couple of drunks who’ll sleep off the day through the night, a strong smell of urine from the periphery, and an incredible amount of garbage.
The church will have made a good deal of money, and a good time will have been had by many, and everyone will be looking forward to next October … which will, of course, come around again in what will seem a month or so.