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More than 800 cousins from same French family gather for a party

A French couple’s dying wishes began the tradition in 1898

The next gathering will likely see even more members attend but will not be until 2027 Pic: BLUR LIFE 1975 / Shutterstock

Many families in France would have used the long Pentecost weekend to meet up – but one family in northern France took it to extremes. 

The Deffontaines-Maes family hosted their ‘cousinade’ party, which saw more than 800 members hailing from over 20 countries reunite in Genech, near Lille. 

Organised every four years, the event sees descendants from the family come together to eat, drink, and celebrate their shared heritage.

Alongside the party, the event also hosts a stall for the family’s association, which helps the younger generation find internships, jobs, and even housing. 

Historic traditions 

The event dates back to 1898 when husband and wife Charles-Louis Deffontaines and Louise Maes asked in their will that their six children remain close.

“Twice a year at each other's homes, for as long as possible. Make sure they stick together. No disagreements, that's our dearest wish. If someone is in trouble, help them. That's the only way we can be strong,” they stipulated in their will. 

With the steady growth of the clan seeing more and more people attending events, the first ‘cousinade’ was held in 2007, which saw more than 400 family members join the festivities. 

Since then, the event has been held every four years and is open to family members of all ages – the event last weekend was attended by a 10-day-old baby and a 97-year-old.

“It's more than a year's work [to prepare the event] because we make it a point of honour to ensure that all age groups have dedicated activities," said Eric Lambelin, one of the organisers and a third-generation descendant of the clan. 

The activities put on for children include football tournaments, face painting, inflatable games and even a miniature train set. 

Read also: Garden parties in France: Do I have to get permission to host one?

Association to help young

The family’s association was created more than 60 years ago and now boasts in excess of 3,000 members. 

The association offers “support to people in professional difficulty. For young people, we offer guidance and put them in touch with family members who have certain skills to explain the different professions,” said Pierre-Albert, who currently heads the network. 

“We've already helped 40 cousins find work,” he added. 

It is not just practical resources that the group offers, but a place to discuss and share with others, too. 

“People can listen to each other and solve problems of all kinds… the future of the association is what we can bring to our young people,” said Mr Lambelin.

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