A New Year’s tradition with origins in medieval France is continued in the United States in just two towns today: Prairie du Rocher, Illinois and Ste. Genevieve.
La Gui Année (or La Guignolèe) was originally the custom of the poor travelling through towns, singing songs and requesting food or alms. The tradition was brought to America by French fur traders and, while not focused on requesting food and drink, still rings in the New Year in much the same way it was centuries ago.
According to some sources, the custom was alive in parts of Washington County into the early to mid-1900s, but as communities lost their distinctly French heritage the customs and traditions were also lost.
Now, the custom is observed in Praire du Rocher, Illinois and Ste. Genevieve, separated only by the Mississippi River, about 10 miles away if one takes the ferry at Ste. Genevieve.
On Dec. 31 in Ste. Genevieve, revelers will make their way through nursing homes, cafes, pubs and the streets of the historic district, singing French traditional songs along the way.
According to the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center, the costumed revelers will be accompanied by a fiddler as they travel through town performing their songs.
While all times are approximate, the revelers are scheduled to stop at the Anvil Restaurant at 7 p.m., the Old Brick at 7:30 p.m., Café Genevieve at 8 p.m. and Audubon’s Bar and Grill at 8:30 p.m.
For information, visit www.visitstegen.com