Parade of floats during the Granville Carnival 1903Haute Ville float - Carnaval 1903 - "Le Thar" float from the Haute Ville district
©Haute Ville float - Carnaval 1903 - "Le Thar" float from the Haute Ville district|Médiathèques de Granville Terre et Mer - Médiathèque Charles de La Morandière Granville
Carnival history150 years of celebration and sharing

History of the Granville Carnival – EN

The story of a celebration between land and sea

A story linked to Granville sailors and cod fishing.

Last party ashore

before setting sail

The history of the Carnaval de Granville is linked to the town’s maritime history, and more specifically to the history of cod fishing, which was the port’s main activity from the 16th century until the early 20th century.

In 1872, a major festival was held in honor of the Terre-neuvas, the fishermen who spent long months each year, far from their families, fishing for cod on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, off the coast of Canada. These expeditions were long and sometimes perilous.

Carnival then consisted, at that time, for all these seafarers and their relatives, in preparing the departure to the Banks by allowing them to make provision of merriment and refrains. The Terre-neuvas departures took place around Mardi Gras. Carnival was therefore their last celebration on land before setting sail.

The first edition of the carnival – with organizing committee – takes place on February 7, 1875.

The carnival is, moreover, part of the tradition of charity festivals: among the floats making up the cavalcade, a char de la charité collects funds for aid to the poorest. And indeed, this tradition appears even before the creation of Carnival as such, for as early as 1867, a grande cavalcade for Mi-Carême is organized in Granville for the benefit of the most destitute.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the program of carnival parades that we still know today is established. In 1902, comités de quartiers were created to better structure the parade, and in 1903, the comité organisateur decided that the carnival parade would henceforth take place on Sundays. The chariot builders from Granville’s four districts (Haute-Ville, Rue Lecampion, Rue du Pont and Calvaire), individuals and bands taking part in the parade then passed through the whole town, including Haute-Ville.

Soon to be 150 editions

But a few cancellations

Since 1875, Carnival has been repeated every year on the last weekend before the start of Lent. Every year? Not quite: the event is interrupted during the First World War. It resumed in 1920, only to be interrupted again from 1940 to 1946.

In 1946, the Second World War was over, but the mood was not yet festive. However, a group of carnival-goers published a songbook entitled “Chantons quand même”, and strolled around cafés singing their repertoire. The carnival really resumed in 1947, with an American float in the parade.

In 1991, the 117th edition of the Carnival was cancelled for fear of terrorist acts linked to the Gulf War.

Finally, the 2021 (147th edition) and 2022 (148th) editions were also cancelled, this time due to the health crisis caused by the Covid-19 epidemic.


Registration in 2016

A UNESCO World Heritage Site

A UNESCO World Heritage nomination project was submitted in 2013 by the festival’s organizers. In June 2014, the Ministry of Culture confirms Granville Carnival as France’s official candidate for Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2015. The Carnival is officially listed as a World Heritage Site in 2016.

The Granville Carnival is also listed in the Inventory of French Intangible Cultural Heritage.

A true institution

Despite its historical evolution, Carnaval de Granville has retained the traditional dimension that has made it a veritable institution today. From the original carnival remain the cavalcade, the execution of the bonhomme carnaval, the intrigues, and the balls.

Always satirical, the atmosphere is one of celebration, laughter and song!”

Also still enduring is the tradition of the “charity float”, which dates back to the very first editions of Carnaval and whose aim was to raise money to help the most destitute. This tradition had disappeared over the years, but was revived in 2003. And since then, the last float in the parade has been raising funds for a local association.

The Granville Carnival is now one of France’s most renowned Carnivals, following in the footsteps of the Nice, Dunkirk, Annecy and Albi Carnivals. In any case, it’s the biggest carnival in Normandy and the Grand Ouest.

The 150th edition will take place from Friday February 9 to Tuesday February 13, 2023.

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