Five things they don’t tell you about… school kermesses in France

We look at how fundraisers for the local church turned into annual school parties that are a huge part of French village life

Kermesse in the french elementary school Maxime Marchand in Normandy at the end of June
La kermesse is now a hotbed of community projects
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Kids from the local school all perform at the kermesse, each climbing on stage with their class to do the song and dance numbers that they have supposedly rehearsed for several months.

Many outsiders find it curious that the end-of-year school party does not take place in school and is usually a well-attended affair open to the whole village that can run well in to the night.

Here are five more things they don't tell you...

La messe

Originally, la kermesse was a church fête, raising funds for local charities and educational projects. 

As such it involved a church service. Today it is usually organised by primary schools in aid of things such as new playground equipment and school trips, and the church does not come into it at all. Mon Dieu!

Les stands

Stands include traditional games such as throwing sponges at stacks of empty tin cans, or drawing straws to win a bottle, as well as sales of local crafts including knitted dolls and baby clothes. 

There is also very often a display of gymnastics, dancing or singing by the primary school children. Que c'est mignon!

Read more: 5 tips to be accepted into French village life

La buvette

Refreshments are available at a kermesse, naturellement

Even though the event is more often than not held in the playground of the local primary school, there is often a bar selling beer and possibly even wine as well as soft drinks. This is traditionally organised by the papas, often to raise funds for a local association. Tchin, tchin!

Le restauration

Mums traditionally organise the chip stall and the cake stand. A favourite sweet treat is les oreillettes, which are made from flour, eggs and olive oil. 

The dough is rolled out thin and cut into strips which puff up when deep fried. They are sold drenched in sugar. Different regions have different variations. Miam-miam!

La vie moderne

Some traditional kermesses have morphed into full-blown commercially-run festivals complete with a line-up of rock bands, a selection of food trucks, and a full bar. 

These have very little connection to any kind of charitable organisation, and tend to carry on until the small hours. Un sacré bruit!