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La tradition des "Catherinettes"

St Catherine's Day Traditions


La tradition des "Catherinettes"

Sainte Catherine d'Alexandrie, patronne des jeunes filles, et par extension des modistes et des couturières est fêtée le 25 novembre.

On appelait catherinettes les jeunes femmes de vingt-cinq ans encore célibataires. Par la suite, la Sainte Catherine devint une journée de fête chez les couturières et les modistes qui se confectionnaient pour l'occasion des chapeaux : dans la couture, on dit que celles qui n'ont pas de mari à 25 ans sont mariées à l'aiguille ...

La catherinette est toujours à l'honneur aujourd'hui mais la recherche d'un mari n'est plus vraiment d'actualité.

La fête de la Sainte Catherine est surtout l'occasion de se moquer gentiment des jeunes femmes célibataires de plus de 25 ans, et de les affubler de chapeaux fantaisistes.

November 25 marks the day where single French ladies celebrate the steadfast resolve of a fourth-century gal named Catherine of Alexandria, today our Patron Saint of Milliners and Couture. 

Roman Emperor Maxentius had his eye on Catherine, but she refused to marry him and was promptly executed. (Another story, by way of the church, says she was executed for spreading Christianity across Europe.) Either way, Catherine was named the patron saint of unmarried women nine centuries later, and on this day, girls in France place hats on their heads—traditionally a starched cap on the eldest unmarried woman in town and paper bonnets on the heads of the others—and spend the day praying to St. Catherine for husbands, and to honour women who've reached 25 years of age but haven't married—called "Catherinettes" in France. 

Catherinettes send postcards to each other, and friends of the Catherinettes make hats for them—traditionally using the colours yellow (faith) and green (wisdom), often outrageous—and crown them for the day. Pilgrimage is made to St. Catherine's statue, and she is asked to intercede in finding husbands for the unmarried lest they "don St. Catherine's bonnet" and become spinsters. The Catherinettes are supposed to wear the hat all day long, and they are usually feted with a meal among friends. Because of this hat-wearing custom, French milliners have big parades to show off their wares on this day.

The French say that before a girl reaches 25, she prays: "Donnez-moi, Seigneur, un mari de bon lieu! Qu'il soit doux, opulent, libéral et agréable!" (Lord, give me a well-situated husband. Let him be gentle, rich, generous, and pleasant!")

After 25, she prays: "Seigneur, un qui soit supportable, ou qui, parmi le monde, au moins puisse passer!" (Lord, one who's bearable, or who can at least pass as bearable in the world!") 

And when she's pushing 30: "Un tel qu'il te plaira Seigneur, je m'en contente!" ("Send whatever you want, Lord; I'll take it!"). An English version goes, St Catherine, St Catherine, O lend me thine aid, And grant that I never may die an old maid.