New York has its iconic New Year’s Eve ball drop; other cities ring in the New Year with fireworks and concerts. In one Southeast Missouri town, the New Year’s celebration is a movable feast of good cheer and well wishes.
It’s also a long-standing tradition that’s only practiced in Ste. Genevieve. La Guignolèe has its roots in the English custom of Wassailing, but was observed and practiced by those living in the French-Colonial town.
According to tradition, La Guignolèe began as a way for the poor to receive food and drink from the rich. It was also practiced by troupes of traveling male singers who went from door to door to entertain and ring in the New Year. Hosts were expected to give them food and drink.
They sang a beggars’ song which went:
“Good evening master and mistress,
and all who live with you.
For the first day of the year,
You owe us La Guignolée.
If you have nothing to give,
A chine of meat or so will do.
A chine of meat is not a big thing,
Only ninety feet long.
Again, we don’t ask for very much,
Only the oldest daughter of the house.
We will give her lots of good cheer,
And we will surely warm her feet.
Now, we greet you,
And beg you to forgive us please.
If we have acted a little crazy,
We meant it in good fun.
Another time we’ll surely be careful
To know when we must come back here again.
Let us dance La Guenille,
— La Guenille, La Guenille!”
Over time, La Guignolèe became more of a social function, a chance to visit with relatives and friends.
The La Guignolèe tradition returns to Ste. Genevieve on Wednesday, Dec. 31. Local residents will ring in 2015 by visiting 16 local venues, which include bars and restaurants.
The celebrants will begin their tour by visiting those in the town’s three long-term care facilities: Parkwood Meadows, Ste. Genevieve Care Center, and Riverview at the Park Care and Rehabilitation Center.
For the remainder of New Year’s Eve, La Guignolèe participants will visit the following locations:
• 7 p.m., Valle Catholic High School gym, 40 N. Fourth St.
• 7:15 p.m., Old Brick House, 90 S. Third St.
• 7:30 p.m., Anvil Restaurant & Saloon, 46 S. Third St.
• 8:15 p.m., Bolduc House’s Jean-Baptist Valle House, corner of Main and Market streets.
• 8:30 p.m., Cafe Genevieve, 950 Ste. Genevieve Drive.
• 9 p.m., Ste. Genevieve Veterans of Foreign Wars club room, 852 Memorial Drive.
• 9:30 p.m., Audubon’s of Ste. Genevieve (formerly the Hotel Ste. Genevieve), 9 N. Main St.
• 10 p.m., 181 Pub & Grill (formerly the Ste. Genevieve Eagles Aerie), 181 Washington St.
• 10:30 p.m., Sandbar, 299 Merchant St.
• 10:45 p.m., Ste. Genevieve Parish/Valle Catholic Schools’ new banquet center, 305-309 Merchant St.
• 11 p.m., Ste. Genevieve Eagles Aerie, 617 Kiefer St.
• 11:20 p.m., Ste. Genevieve Elks Lodge, 19603 Molasses Hollow Road.
• 11:40 p.m., Ste. Genevieve Knights of Columbus Hall, 600 Market St.