The Fête du Citron – Lemon Festival – as we know it today was born in 1934 in the town of Menton. But we have to go back some forty years to 1895 to see see how its history developed. That year, local hotel owners were looking to set up activities to fill the city with life during winter. They proposed to the city authorities to create a parade, the first edition of which would be held the following year, in 1896.
From its first edition, the parade seduced the local as well as the affluent people who used to come to Menton to spend winter in warmer latitudes. Princes, artists and even kings flocked to palaces in Menton and all over the French Riviera.
Europe’s leading lemon producer
Lemon and citrus fruit became part of the festivities in 1929. Menton was then the first lemon producer in Europe. The Hôtel Riviera had the idea of organising an exhibition of flowers and citrus fruits in the gardens of the hotel. It was a total success and the following year, the festival spread to the streets of the town, with floats filled with shrubs decorated with oranges and lemons.
Menton’s town hall sae a great opportunity to boost tourism during winter and formalised the event while giving it local flavour. Thus, the Fête du Citron was born in 1936. The first exhibition of citrus fruits and flowers was then organised in the Biovès, Menton’s botanical garden. François Ferrié was then in charge of designing and setting up the plans for the floats that would parade through the town. Year after year, spectators flocked from the four corners of the world to see the floats decorated with oranges and lemons. The carnival has even been recognised and included by the Ministry of Culture in the inventory of French intangible cultural heritage in 2019.
Fête du Citron 2020
The 87th edition, which takes place from February 15th to March 3rd, honours world’s celebrations. It is an opportunity to discover festive traditions from other parts of the world. Thus, you can learn a little more about Festival of the Dead in Mexico, Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Hanami, the famous traditional Japanese custom of contemplating the beauty of flowers, or the famous Oktoberfest which celebrates beer every year in Bavaria.
For this 87th edition, no less than 140 tons of citrus fruits were needed to decorate the floats and other installations. During the carnaval, smaller events are organised such as the nocturnal strolls on Saturday 15th, Friday 21st and 28th February. The famous float parades will take place every Sunday: February 16th and 23rd, as well as March 1st at 2.30 pm. It will also be possible to see them every Thursday (February 20th and 27th) from 9 pm.
The program is detailed on the Fête du Citron website, where you can also buy your tickets for different events.