Yesterday, France celebrated VE Day--the day the Germans formally surrendered after WWII. I was in Ferriere-Larcon, about 30 kilometers north of where I'll be living come summer.
There, a group of villagers, a friend and I among them, met in the town square for the raising of the French flag. Then we walked up to the cemetery at the edge of town, a cluster of children ahead of us bearing flowers for the war memorial there.
Two villagers took turns reading out the names of those who died in both World Wars. They paused after each name, at which point everyone chanted, Mort pour la France, or 'Died for France.' It was a charming if somber ceremony with a small honor guard. Afterwards, the maire and conseil general read a letter sent to all the town mayors from the French secretaire general. Then we all walked back to the town, to the mairie, where we had drinks.
I was not the only American visitor present. There is a marital blessing taking place in the Ferriere-Larcon church today for a newly married, young American couple. They came to Ferriere in 2007, to the very same housesit I did when I first arrived in France in 2006. They loved the village of Ferriere so much they decided to arrange the blessing, followed by a wedding reception. Village residents volunteered to clean the ancient church (it's rarely used nowadays and has fallen somewhat into disrepair), oiling the doors and scrubbing stone, as well as fetching the flowers and the wedding cake, organizing the caterer and arranging tables and chairs in the mairie's salle des fetes.
The couple's family and friends have been arriving from America over the past few days and have been overwhelmed by the warmth and enthusiasm with which they've been received.
I know how they feel.