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Bagad Karaez | © WikiCommons
Bagad Karaez | © WikiCommons
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Exploring Traditions In Brittany, France

Picture of Hristos Fleturis
Updated: 9 February 2017
Brittany, in the western region of France, has a powerful Celtic cultural heritage. The sea and the fishing industry have an important place in Breton culture. Discover Brittany‘s special type of crêpes (pancakes) and delicious cider. Dance with the locals at their fest-noz (night festivals) that take place almost every weekend and you’ll see how special this region in western France really is.
Dinan, Ille et Vilaine, Brittany, France/ ©miquitos/Flickr
Dinan, Ille et Vilaine, Brittany, France/ | ©miquitos/Flickr

Food and drinks

Galettes

The galettes (savory version of crêpes) are probably the most important traditional food of Brittany. Almost everyone knows how to make them, and they are so full of flavor it is impossible not to eat at least one while you are visiting. It’s impossible to miss them since most places are full of crêperies and they all serve galettes.

Galette Bretone | © WikiCommons
Galette Bretone | © WikiCommons

They are made from buckwheat flour (farine de sarrasin in French or blé noir in Brittany), as opposed to the classic crêpes, which are made from wheat. This gives them a special flavor and makes them crunchier. Galettes are served with everything from sausages (saucisses) to bacon, cheese, and mushrooms.

Galettes des Rois

This is a special type of sweet galette, similar to a cake. It is served few days before and after the Epiphany day and can include a small porcelain figure hidden inside. The toy can be anything from a small Asterix figure to Gandalf, or a car, for example. The lucky person who finds the toy in their portion becomes ‘King’ for a day!

Galette des Rois | © Hristos Fleturis/Flickr
Galette des Rois | © Hristos Fleturis

Kouign Amann

The Kouign Amann is a round cake made of wheat and layers of butter and sugar. It’s served enjoyed year round and is a must-try.

Kouign Amann | © WikiCommons
Kouign Amann | © WikiCommons

The Kir Breton

The Kir is a drink usually served as an aperitif in France, like a cocktail, made from wine and different types of liqueur including cherry, blackcurrant and strawberry. In Brittany, they have replaced the wine with cidre, a delicious decision.

Lambig

Lambig is produced from distilled cider. Some may know it as eau de vie, others as Calvados in Normandy. Similarities exist between scotch and this drink, but the Breton variety is special because it can also be used to make Kir.

Breton Costumes

Coiffe

It would be a challenge to enumerate all the many different traditional costumes in Brittany, so we’ll focus on the main example, the Breton coiffe. This is a special type of lace headwear for women. It comes in varying sizes and complexities depending upon the place of the person wearing it in society.

Coiffe Bretonne | © WikiCommons
Coiffe Bretonne | © WikiCommons

Festivities

Fest-noz

Fest-noz represents the Festival of the Night in Breton culture. It’s a night of traditional dances, Kirs Bretons, cider, beer and galettes. It’s a festivity that all Bretons attend, and you can see young and old dancing the night away. Bretons are friendly people and will happily teach you everything there is to know.

Fest-deiz

Fest-deiz is a fest-noz that takes place during the day. It starts in the afternoon and usually ends around midnight. Dances, drinks, and food, especially galettes, are always on hand. The festival is full of traditional dances dating back to the Middle Ages. These events are a way for the community to reconnect with its past.

Breton Music

Classic

The music of Brittany is similar to the other Celtic countries, in the same style of Irish, Scottish, or Welsh music. The language of Brittany, brezhoneg, plays an important part in the songs, one of the only occasions on which the traditional language is still used.

Bagpipes are very popular, and there are bands in each region. The biggest gathering of Breton music takes place at the Festival Interceltique de Lorient. Every summer, bands from all over Brittany and Celtic countries gather to present their pipe bands (called bagad in Breton) and traditions.

Pop Music

Old traditional songs are usually modernized in pop-rock music. Some of the new bands still sing in the Breton language, while others are trying to bring the language up to date by translating it or by using a mix of French, English and Breton. Like Matmatah, for example:

Traditional symbols

The hermine

This white ermine is the ‘national’ animal of Brittany. The symbol is for the Ducs de Bretagne what the fleur-de-lys is for the kings of France. It can be seen everywhere in the region’s châteaux and has many legends associated with it; some say that Anne de Bretagne saved an ermine from a hunting session because, even if it was hurt, the animal kept fighting for survival. Thus, she agreed to keep using the blanche hermine as a symbol of the power of Brittany.

The symbol can also be seen on Brittany’s flag:

Brittany Flag with the hermine in the top left corner | © WikiCommons
Brittany Flag with the hermine in the top left corner | © WikiCommons

The sea

The sea itself is a tradition in Brittany. From seafood to wonderful sandy beaches, or the amazing ocean races that start from seaside towns like St. Malo, people here love it. The huitres (oysters) and the mussels in the area are famous all over France.

St Malo Ocean Races | © WikiCommons
St Malo Ocean Races | © WikiCommons