Traditions across Europe-an eTwinning project

“Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, TRADITION and myth frame our response.” (Arthur Schlesinger Jr.)

Breton “Onion Johnnies” in Britain. August 25, 2009

Filed under: Festivals and fairs,Old traditions,Typical places — mariedebretagne2 @ 11:03 am
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The Onion Johnnies are farmers who cross the Channel to sell their onions in Britain. They started doing so at the end of the XIXth century. They would transport their onions on bikes and go from house to house to sell their braids of onions. Winston Churchill was one of their customers ! He liked their onions very much.



They still carry on this trade but they are not as numerous. They board the ferry in Roscoff to Plymouth, their vans loaded with oinions , proud to maintain that tradition.

A young Johnny oinion man braiding his oinions.

A young Johnny oinion man braiding his oinions.

By the way: Johnny means “little John” and in Breton language “ar Johnniged”

Their onions have just been granted a quality label ‘( A.O.C: Appellation d’origine contrôlée) and last weekend there was an Onion Fair in Roscoff ( Brittany, France) which was attended by hundreds of people.

A vivid tradition indeed!

Oinion Jonhnny in Edinburgh ( Scotland)

Onion Jonhnny in Edinburgh ( Scotland) in the 1960's

Oinion Johnny preparing its braids nowadays.

Onion Johnny preparing his braids nowadays.


A Breton “pardon” in western Brittany ( France) July 25, 2009


Photo from the local Paper Ouest-France

Photo from the local Paper Ouest-France

A Breton pardon is usually attached to a chapel or a a church in Brittany. Each chapel is under the protection of a saint who mostly came from Ireland or Britain in the fifth century A.D.

The statue of the saint is taken out of the chapel every year and shown to the public. Here, in this village of Loc-Ildut ( Sizun), the saint is called Ildut. This religious and secular festival takes place each year on the last sunday of July. Lots of people will wear their traditional costumes which is specific of the area: headresses, embroidered shawls and aprons for women and a specific hat for men ( “Le chapeau à guides”)

Ildut was born in south Wales, in the old medieval kingdom of Glamorgan.

As many saints crossing the Channel from Ireland or Britain in the Vth century of our era, he  is supposed to have come to Brittany to prevent its  population from starving.

As many young men of his time crossing the Channel, he was of royal lineage or at least  a knight who fought in King Arthur ‘s armies. Not only was he a soldier but also a learned man: He studied the old and new testaments, geometry, philosophy, sciences, rhetoric, arithmetic and was at the head of  his monastry in Glamorgan too.

Some other source says that he didn’t come to Brittany himself but sent some disciples to evangelize the Breton people. Who really knows?

Whetever history is, the people of the village above mentionned pay the saint a tribute every year and mix happily religion with traditional dancing and games. A big meal is served at the end of the day too. In fact this “pardon” is a large get-together where you can meet elderly people as well as the younger generations. What a great excuse to be all together!

* note: A place on the northern western  shore of Brittany has borrowed the saint’s name and is called Aber-Ildut where  Saint Ildut or his disciplices set foot after sailing across the Channel. That place is a “ria” or “aber”: a river invaded by the sea twice a day at high tide.



OUR TRIP TO APEDALE PARK November 20, 2008

Filed under: Typical places — philjohnson @ 11:07 pm

Last week we went for a school trip to Apedale, a very nice and typical  Country Park near our town Chesterton.There we visited an acient wood.  As the name, Watermills Wood,suggests – there were, at one time, mills in these woods which ground things such as corn or wheat into flour. Later, coal mines were dug here using water from the stream running through the wood. We can tell that the opencast mine did not dig into the wood by the age of the trees, we know they are very old from their size. The path is where the narrow railway lines were and a steam engine at the top of the woods would help pull wagons up to collect the coal.

When the hole left by the opencast mine was filled in, trees were planted in some places but some parts were left as open grassland. This was to encourage certain wildlife to live here. (e.g. skylarks and lapwings, known as ‘peawits’, who nest on the ground.)

Water and heat is needed to make steam. Burning coal provided the heat and water was drawn from the pond. Silver birch trees grow very quickly and so that explains the number of them here. When all the industry stopped, these trees would have been some of the first ones to grow.


The Brickworks can be seen from here. 50 years ago several ovens could be seen with black smoke coming out of their chimneys. Chesterton High School, the site of an early Roman fort, can be seen on the hill opposite.

There are clues there was a coalmine. For example, they had to separate the stuff they did want (coal) from the stuff they didn’t want, such as a rock called shale. As they dug, the rocks from Watermills Colliery were dumped onto a heap. As the rocks got higher, the materials became squashed and the gas contained in them burned. (spontaneous combustion) Sometimes these fires can last for two years. In the wood we can see red ash which is the name of the rock after it has burned.

Traditional British trees such as oak, elm and beech take a long time to grow. So, to avoid the park looking bare, fast growing trees such as the willow, alder and silver birch were planted. Oak, elm and beech were planted in between. The plan is to remove the ‘fast growers’ once the others are established to a reasonable height.


The limestone path from the Heathcote tower to the gate leading out of the woods, was laid by Churchfields schoolchildren some years ago.

We can see the base of the old tower, there would have been a tall chimney above this. Cages took the men and coal up and down and steam was needed to power the engine for the railway. Water was taken from nearby pools for the steam. The chimney was to carry away the smoke from the coal being burned. Richard Heathcote owned the mines. He had realised the valley had potential for profit and so he purchased the land. At the base of the tower he had religious messages engraved : “live and let live” and “regard the end”. (this last phrase meant : prepare for when you die).

Here are some photos of our trip:


Philip&Kids: Class 4 – Churchfields Primary School – Chesterton, Newcastle-under-Lyme – England – UK


Churches in Bucharest November 17, 2008

Filed under: Religious traditions,Typical places — ivasil @ 5:48 pm

Antim Monastery
It was founded by the metropolitan bishop Antim Ivireanul, a famous name of our culture.
He started one of the first printing works in Romania, was a writer and a sculptor.
The monastery was designed by Antim himself, two of the original plans still exist. Antim payed for the building of the monastery himself.
It is one of the most beautiful buildings in Bucharest in the Brancovenesc style.
It was planned as a fortress, the church in the middle and the cells around it, with a tower in each corner. During the Phanariot regime the church was robbed by the Greek in1790 and brought to a pitiful state.
It was only restored completely in 1870.

Bucur Church
According to he tradition, it was first built of wood by Bucur, the shepherd who founded our town.
The ruler Mircea cel Batran then raised the brick church in 1416, even before the city had become the capital of Wallachia.
This is said to be the second oldest church in Bucharest.

Casin Monastery
It mixes the Brancovenesc style (with the entrance columns) and the Byzantine one (the shape of the Greek cross, mosaics, the high and spacious building).
It’s one of the tallest churches in Bucharest, meant to be seen from far away.

Coltea Church

It was founded by Spatarul (the Sword Bearer) Catacuzino between 1701-1702
I has rich adornments specific to the Brancovenesc style.
The frescos are painted by Gh. Tattarescu.

The Old Court Church
One of the most valuable buildings of the religious architecture from the Feudal Age, the oldest in Bucharest. It is preserved in its initial form built between 1545-1547 by the ruler Mircea Ciobanul for the needs of the Ruling Court. There are also some frescos from the reign of Serban Cantacuzino still preserved. It was declared a historical monument.

Domnita Balasa Church
The church is built in the Neo-Roman style.
The original building was founded by Domnita Balasa, the 6th daughter of Constantin Brancoveanu. Her tomb can be seen inside the church.
The stained glass windows were made in Munich and the chandelier in Vienna.
Just outside the church there is Domnita Balasa’s statue, one of the best works of Carol Storck.
The inscription on the pedestal mentions the estates the church had received.
The church is a historical and architectural monument.

Radu Voda Monastery
It was built in 1568 by Mircea Ciobanu’s son, set on fire by the Turks withdrawing from the glorious attack of Michael the Brave and restored during the reign of Radu Mihnea.
It hosts Gh Tattarescu’s paintings.
It is an important monument of our capital due to its troubled history and historical value. The first library in Bucharest functioned here during the 16th century.

Mihai Voda Monastery
It was built by Michael the Brave between 1589-1591 on the place of an old church.
It had strong defense walls and royal houses that were later used as residence of the Phanariot rulers.
The present complex includes the church (an architectural and historical monument), the Palace of the State Archives and the Belfry.

The Patriarchal Cathedral
This stunning 17th-century cathedral, situated on a hill overlooking Southern Bucharest, is the Romanian Orthodox Church headquarters.
A fabulous fresco of the blessed and the damned, ascending to heaven or tumbling into hell, adorns the entrance, as well as the oldest icon on the site, depicting patron saints Constantin and Helen (1665).
It was built between 1656-1658, by the ruler Costantin Serban Basarab and finished in the time of Radu Leon when it became the headquarters of the Metropolitan Church. The hill it is standing on is therefore called the Metropolitan Hill.
The only thing left from the monastery’s establishments is a beautiful belfry built during Constantin Brancoveanu’s reign, in 1698.

St. Nicholas Church
It is also called The Russian church, because it is built in a typical Russian style. It is the only such church in Romania.
People also call it Students’ Church because since 1933 it’s been the Bucharest University chapel of ease.
It was built between 1905-1909 and partly financed by the Tzar Nicholas. It was destined to be used by the Russian community.
The seven onion-shaped tower roofs used to be gold gilded, but it was washed away by the rain.

The New St. Spiridon Church
This is the biggest church in Bucharest.
The iconostasis is painted by Gheoghe Tattarescu and the stained glass windows were made in Vienna in 1860

The Old St. Spiridon Church
This small church on the Dambovita’s shore has many strange features.
First, its shape is unusual for the Orthodox churches, because it has no towers.
Then, it’s position: it stood at first on the left bank of the Dambovita. Due to the river’s channelling, it now stands on the right bank. As the ground went down after the works, it now is one meter lower than the street’s level, so instead of climbing stairs to get in, you have to go down.
It is the only Orthodox church in the world that has the inscription above the entrance written in Greek and Arab instead of Slavonic.
Last, but the most important: this is not the original church, the one built in the 17th century. That one was destroyed in 1987 during Ceausescu’s regime. As it was so small, one afternoon was enough for the bull-dozers to tear it down.
It was rebuilt in 1992 on the same spot and using the parts that had been preserved from the old church: the entrance with the inscription, the columns, the window-frames and the icons.

Stavropoleos Church
The small and beautiful Stavropoleos church is hidden behind the National History Museum, between higher buildings.
According to its story, it was founded by a Greek monk named Ioanichie, who settled down here.
It is built in the Brâncovenesc Style, a typical Romanian style from the 17th-19th centuries. It can be seen in its columns, pedestals, balcony and the carved ornaments showing plants and animals. The church survived many earthquakes, starting with two very bad ones in 1802 and 1838, but now both the building itself and the surrounding area need major rehabilitation.

Zlatari Church
The legend says it was first built of wood during the reign of Matei Basarab (17th century) by the Greek craftsmen who were making gold objects.
It was rebuilt in 1705 and then again after the 1802 and 1838 earthquakes, using Xavier Villacrosse’s plans.
The interior paintings made by Gh. Tattarescu and the silver framed icons are real works of art. Unfortunately, the painting needs urgent reparations.

Irina and the kids from School 92, Bucharest


Going around the Francavilla old town centre October 16, 2008

Vogliamo farvi conoscere i luoghi più antichi del nostro piccolo paese attraverso un lavoro di una delle nostre scuole dell’infanzia:

We want to let you know the most ancient places in our little town through a work of one of our Infant schools:

“…Gli alunni dell’ultimo anno della scuola dell’infanzia di Porta Pia di Francavilla sul Sinni i rioni del proprio paese, mediante esperienze di apprendimento significative. Condotta mediante momenti ludici, l’attività di apprendimento degli alunni è stata mirata alla scoperta e all’appropriazione di alcuni ambienti vicini e vissuti dai bambini, come contesti di apprendimento per comprendere alcune trasformazioni avvenute, per cogliere alcuni rapporti tra uomo, natura e eventi, partendo dal nome dei rioni del proprio paese. Sollecitando nei bambini alcuni interrogativi, i docenti hanno motivato gli stessi che si sono divertiti a curiosare, a chiedere in giro, ad osservare a raccogliere informazioni, immagini e impressioni che hanno poi rielaborato ed organizzato mediante attività grafiche, pittoriche, plastiche, motorie, ovvero linguaggi verbali e non verbali, utilizzando registratori, fotocamere e telecamere come strumenti di lettura e scrittura della realtà.Stimolando la loro creatività si è arrivati alla invenzione di una favola dove, com’è proprio del pensiero infantile, il mondo rappresentato sfoca i suoi confini tra reale e immaginario. La conseguente realizzazione del fumetto e del film, mediante i quali raccontare la favola è stato lo sfondo integratore che ha dato unitarietà e direzione ad un lavoro scolastico. …”

“The last year children of the “G. Rodari Infant School ( in the Istituto Comprensivo “Don Bosco”) in Francavilla sul Sinni have been guided to discover the quarters of own town.. Run by moments of games, the learning activity has been orientated to the discover and the appropriation of some close habitats and lived by the children as learning contexts to understand some occurred transformations , to pick up some relations among, human, nature and events, starting from the quarters names of own town. Stimulating in the children some questions, the teachers motivated them that had a fun nosing, asking around, looking and gathering information, images and impressions that then they elaborated by graphic, pictorial, plastic, motor activities, or verbal and not verbal languages, using recorder, photo- cameras and video- cameras as reading and writing tools of the reality. Stimulating their creativity they arrived to the invention of a tale where, just like the children’s thought is, the represented world goes out of the focus between real and imaginary. The consequent realization of a comic and a film , by which they tell the story, was the integrating background that gave unity of purpose to the school work. …”

Andando in giro, I Bambini hanno scoperto e fotografato molti rioni e strade antichi e tipici del nostro centro storico: Il “Fungalone”, detto anche “Gonfalone, il “Timpone”, “S. Giuseppe” con la cappella, “S. Antonio” con la Cappella, il “corso”, la strada principale verso la chiesa, e la Chiesa della Beata Vergine, la “Variante”, la “Pianura”, La “Villa Comunale”, un bellissimo parco al centro del paese, la “Fontanella”, un antico lavatoio, la “Vigna Chiesa”, “S. Domenico” un villaggio rurale.

Going around, the children discovered and photographed many typical and ancient quarters and streets of our old town centre : the”Fungalone”, also named “Gonfalone”, the “Timpone”, “S. Giuseppe” with its chapel, “S. Antonio”, with another chapel, the “Corso”, a main street towards the church, the “Variante”, a cross road, the “Pianura”, a plain place, the “Villa Comunale”, a very nice park in the middle of the town, the “Fontanella”, an ancient fountain, “S. Domenico”, an outdoors rural village.

Eccone alcune/ Here are some of them:

Scuola dell’Infanzia “G. Rodari”- Istituto Comprensivo “Don Bosco”-Francavilla in Sinni (PZ)- Italia