Languedoc traditions

Here in Languedoc, all year round, the traditions of the south are lively, popular and colourful, with lots of festivals.

The identity of this part of Occitania, a blend of legend, religion, folklore and friendliness, shows itself in the traditional festivals: Languedoc water jousting, bull games, tambourin, carnivals and popular festivals.

When festivals speak the Language of Oc !

The minute you arrive, the accents of the south will surprise you and create a festive mood. The singsong intonation of the language of Oc (our ‘Langue d'Oc’), which you’ll hear in the market-place, is a reminder of the area’s Romance heritage.

The local tongue is not the only accompaniment to our traditional festivities. Our totemic animals also play an important role. These fantasy animals are directly derived from centuries-old local legends. They dance around the town to the swaying rhythms of the music, making a fun spectacle for all ages.


One blue boat, one red, the players, all dressed in white, take their positions to the sound of the oboe: it’s time for some Languedoc water jousting!
These tournaments, played out in the bright sunshine, haven’t changed since the port of Sète was first established.
An exciting atmosphere is guaranteed in Sète, Mèze, Agde, Béziers, Balaruc-les-Bains, Frontignan, Palavas or Marseillan.

Every week, the jousting schools put forward their best jousters. They are matched in categories, like boxers.
In Sète, the most important match is the celebrated Saint-Louis Tournament in late August. This is when the champion of champions is crowned.

On a wooden platform, known as a tintaine, mounted on the boats’ stern, the jouster holds a lance that has three metal hooks on its end. In his other hand, he holds a wooden shield. Each jouster tries to make his opponent fall into the water by hitting his shield with his lance. The struggle begins as soon as the oboes and drums sound the charge.
© Olivier Mas


In Occitania, this ball-game is both a sport and a tradition, a descendant of real tennis. Both its name and its form have changed over the years, but nowadays it is simply known as tambourin.

This sport is like a mixture of tennis and Basque pelota. It involves two opposing teams of five players each. They hit the ball towards each other using the tambourine-shaped racquet.

This is a traditional sport and can be played either indoors or outdoors, on a court divided into two by a line. Nowadays it is played at an international level.

The tambourines are made in a factory – the second largest of its kind in the world – at Gignac. It produces between 4,500 and 5,000 tambourines every year. You can visit the factory and admission is free. Open Monday to Friday, 09:00 to 16:00, but it is advisable to book. Tel: +33 (0)4 67 42 50 09.


Tambourin © Régis Domergue

The “Courses Camarguaises”

The “Course Camarguaise” is a game of skill. The “razeteur” has to grab the rosettes, ribbons and tassels attached to the bull’s forehead. The animal is not harmed in any way, and certainly not killed. Far from it: the bull is king of the arena!

From March to November, the arenas and villages are vibrant with music, shouting, applause and whistling. This is the season of the “bouvine” (bullring events), of “fêtes votives” (religious and other festivals) and “courses camarguaises”.

Course camarguaise
The door of the bullpen swings open and the bull rushes into the arena. The razeteurs then snatch the trophies in the following sequence: first the rosette, then the tassels and last the headband with its ribbons.

This denotes the arrival of the bulls. The gardians herd the bulls through the village streets.

After the corrida, the bulls, herded by the gardians, are let loose in the streets of the town.
Be careful to follow the advice about safety and the instructions provided in the Charte des Manadiers.

The term manade is applied to the herd of bulls as well as to the farm and its pasturelands.
Herders welcome visitors and will arrange an excursion on horseback, a ferrado, or herdsmen’s games involving bulls.

this means the branding of young bulls with a branding iron. As a second mark of ownership, a small nick (escoussure) is made in the bull’s ear.
The occasion is marked by a communal meal, a time to admire the skills of the gardians while enjoying a picnic.
The afternoon is given over to herdsmen’s games in the manades’ bullring.


© Photothèque Hérault Tourisme

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