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French baguette-making practices added to Unesco intangible heritage

The artisanal techniques are joined on the list by the bear festivities of Pyrenean villages in France and Andorra

French baguette-making practices have been added to Unesco’s intangible cultural heritage list Pic: White bear studio / Shutterstock

Unesco has recognised the artisanal savoir-faire involved in producing French baguettes by adding the practice to its list of intangible cultural heritage. 

Baguette-making joins other cultural techniques and customs including the Japanese Furyu-odori ritual dances, the light rum masters of Cuba, and traditional tea processing methods in China. 

Another tradition linked to France which has been recognised by Unesco this year are the bear festivities in the Pyrenees, which take place every winter across five villages in France and Andorra. 

During the event, young men dress up as bears and run through the streets trying to catch participants. The festivities are punctuated by dances, speeches in Catalan and music. 

Other French traditions honoured by the status include Aubusson tapestry-making – which was added in 2009 – the ‘gastronomic meal of the French’ and the Breton traditional festival Fest Noz, which involves dancing and acoustic music, and was added in 2012. 

The decision was announced this morning (November 30) on Twitter. 

What is intangible heritage?

Unesco’s intangible heritage list honours “living culture” in which “communities” are represented rather than objects, Unesco’s Ernesto Ottone told AFP.

In this way, the intangible heritage can belong simultaneously to several countries.

The Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage was adopted in 2003, and is dedicated to safeguarding these “human treasures”. There are currently 530 practices on the list, including 72 needing urgent protection.

"Intangible cultural heritage, transmitted from generation to generation, is constantly recreated by communities and groups in response to their environment, their interaction with nature and their history, and provides them with a sense of identity and continuity, thus promoting respect for cultural diversity and human creativity," the convention states.

Unesco’s cultural heritage committee has been studying 56 proposed additions to its intangible heritage list since Monday, during meetings in Morocco.

Alongside baguettes, the committee has been considering the fêtes foraines (travelling funfairs) of France and Belgium and the culture surrounding them. 

A few hours before it was announced the positive decision for baguette-making, Dominique Anract, the president of the Confédération nationale de la boulangerie-pâtisserie française said that he was “very optimistic” about the result.

He had previously said that honouring baguette-making practices would “lend an international dimension to the baguette [...] It could therefore show young people that [being a baker] is a wonderful career.” 

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