These intrinsic aspects of French culture are all considered important enough to be inscribed on UNESCO’s World Intangible Heritage list
When France’s traditional gastronomic meal was added to the World Intangible Heritage list by UNESCO in 2010 it was the first time that gastronomy had featured. According to the selection committee, French gastronomy is “a social custom aimed at celebrating the most important moments in the lives of individuals and groups,” and its “rites and presentation fulfilled the conditions for featuring on the list.”
2. Perfume in Grasse
The hillside town of Grasse in Alpes-Maritimes has been synonymous with perfume production since the 16th century and is home to some of the biggest names in the industry, such as Fragonard and Galimard. In 2018 the skills related to perfume making in Grasse were inscribed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list. These skills include the cultivation of perfume plants, the knowledge and processing of raw materials, and the art of perfume composition.
3. Countryside sounds and smells
The Assemblée Nationale approved a new bill in 2020 that protects the sounds and smells of the French countryside as part of the country’s ‘rural sensory heritage’. This came after a number of rural property owners complained that their peace and quiet was being disturbed, with cases brought against a crowing rooster on the Ile d’Oléron, noisy frogs in Dordogne, smelly cows in Somme and loud church bells ringing in Colmar.
Alpinism, the art of climbing up summits and walls in high mountains, in all seasons, in rocky or icy terrain, was inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2019 after being nominated by France, Italy and Switzerland.
5. Granville carnival
The Carnaval de Granville in Normandy’s Manche department takes place every year during the five days preceding Shrove Tuesday and welcomes more than 150,000 visitors. The carnival, which “contributes to community unity and a sense of belonging” was inscribed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2016.
6. Fest-Noz in Brittany
A festive gathering based on the collective practice of traditional Breton dances, accompanied by singing or instrumental music, Fest-Noz was inscribed on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list in 2012. Around a thousand Fest-Noz take place every year and according to UNESCO, “many new inhabitants of Breton villages use it as a means of integration, as it is heavily implicated in the sense of identity and continuity of the people of Brittany.”
7. Aubusson tapestry
The craft of Aubusson tapestry is a centuries-old tradition that involves the weaving of an image using processes practised in the Creuse town of Aubusson, and received UNESCO protection in 2009. The manual weaving process is time-consuming and expensive, and produces decorative wall hangings and rugs.
8. Dry-stone walling
The art of dry-stone walling was France’s 17th inclusion on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list when it was added in 2018, and concerns the knowhow related to making stone constructions by stacking stones on top of each other without using any other materials. According to UNESCO, “such structures testify to the methods and practices used by people from prehistory to today to organise their living and working space by optimising local natural and human resources.”
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