ROMA FESTIVAL AT SAINTES-MARIES-DE-MAIR
Thousands of Roma people all over the Europe travelled to Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer at the Southern France 24th and 25th May 2017 to participate an annual festival. This small city with population as small as 2500 becomes a meeting point for Roma people every year at the end of May.
However, most of the Roma people go to Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer because of their patron Saint Sara. The legend says, Maria Jacobé and Maria Salomé, close relatives of Jesus and Mary, who had been expelled from Judea during the persecution arrived at the boat and Sara helped them to reach the land. Sara asked them to baptise her people and this is how they brought Christian religion to this region.
St. Sara, named often Black or Kali Sara, became a patron of Roma people, because according some legends, she was Roma.
Many of Roma people marry or baptise themselves during this time. Saint Saras statue is located at the church in Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer. Roma people go there to pray and ask her for blessing, and they believe that she can forgive all their sins. They bring her candles, clothes, jewellery and scarves.
The statue of the Saint Sara is carried to the sea on 24th May to symbolise the arrival of saints. Masses of people – Roma and non-Roma – accompany the statue of Sara to the sea together with “Gardians” (cowboys at white horses) and the Arlesiennes” dressed in their traditional costumes. After procession statue is pulled up to her usual place. The next day is the procession repeated with reliquaries of St. Marie Jakobé and Marie Salomé.
Many Roma people go to Saintes-Maries-De-La-Mer to meet their relatives and friends, who they haven’t seen long time. Streets are full of colours, music and dance. It is possible to see there flamenco and behind the corner balkan Roma music. Roma gathering is very attractive also for tourists, who go there to get to know Roma culture. Many Roma people live in caravans behind the town or close to the see during the festival, and some of them stay there at least for the whole week.
Maria Markus, Vera Lacková