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Fête du Citron: an explosion of colours and scents between tradition and sustainability.

It is an event that continues to surprise tourists for its originality and creativity, at one of the funniest times of the year, the carnival...where every joke counts. The Fête du Citron (Menton Lemon Festival) is animating the seaside-resort town of Menton in the best of traditions, after three unusual editions due to the pandemic. From the 11th until the 26th February 2023 the iconic spot framed in the famous French Riviera is embellished with scents of citrus that here become monumental sculptures and masked parades, celebrating this year Rock & Opera. The Biovès Gardens, the most popular local green flow starting from the Casino up north, are hosting a set of amazing yellow-orange creations made of thousands of lemons and oranges bond in rubber bands, traditionally imported from abroad (notably from Spain) just for the occasion. This tradition has its roots in local folklore, developed at the end of the nineteenth century.

Photo >> The citrus sculpture devoted to the Chinese Opera (Menton Lemon Festival, Biovès Gardens, 17th February 2023) © Maurice Abbati MOEA

At that time, the French and Italian Rivieras were invaded in the winter months by distinguished holidaymakers from northern Europe in search of the mild climate of the Mediterranean Sea. Most of them were willing to test their Grand Tour in search of culture, art and adventure. In this context, the hotel owners of Menton proposed to the municipality to organise a festive event that could cheer up the spirits of those special guests. The first show in 1875 was a great success and it was soon included in the annual program of events. In the meanwhile, the popular French holiday destination was acknowledged as the European capital of a specific lemon, nicknamed 'Rocky Lemon', flourishing in the area thanks to its microclimate. In 1929, lemons and flowers were officially introduced in the carnival parade stimulating further success.

Photo >> The citrus sculpture to pay tribute to 'Carmen' by Georges Bizet (Menton Lemon Festival, Biovès Gardens, 17th February 2023) © Maurice Abbati MOEA

As a natural consequence, yellow became the official colour of the event and finally the Municipality decided to call it Fête du Citron, starting from 1934. For the first time, two years later (1936), Biovès gardens were the setting of picturesque still-horizontal cart compositions made of citrus fruits and flowers, designed by François Ferrié. After the Second World War, structures became increasingly taller. Since 1955, the fruity sculptures and street parades have been inspired to a different theme every year. In the 1970's Lemon Festival takes on a more international dimension and in 1984 the Orchid Fair was launched as the major collateral event. Since late 1930's the artistic creations of citrus have been more and more spectacular as well as the shows on the waterfront every Sundays and the night lighting of the gardens.

All in the name of joy and positive vibes only.

Photo >> The citrus sculpture to celebrate the 'Nabucco' by Giuseppe Verdi (Menton Lemon Festival, Biovès Gardens, 17th February 2023) © Maurice Abbati MOEA

Nowadays, the Menton Lemon Festival is therefore well-known, attracting about 240,000 visitors in total and involving about 300 employees and professionals. But it follows also a sustainable approach. All fruits, in fact, are not thrown away and about 180,000 tons of citrus are sold to citizens and visitors, at the end of the festivities. Moreover, the choice not to use the precious local lemons meets the need to preserve the local economy and not waste food. One more reason to experience this flavoury atmosphere with an environmentally friendly spirit.***

Photo >> Official poster of the 89th Menton Lemon Festival © Ville de Menton

To know more about Menton Lemon Festival please visit: Fête du Citron


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By Maurice Abbati

Springer International Publishing

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