Today, Rougemont has become a fashionable destination. The price of property has risen sharply and the tourist industry contributes greatly to the local population’s living.
But it was not always like this…below, you will find some anecdotes of the past which we hope will charm you with their authenticity.
The long winter evenings
In the past the population lived very simply and very often in poverty, and counted essentially on agriculture and work in the forests for a living.
Winters were long and activities had to be invented. Thus an agreeable custom was born…
At nightfall, it became customary to meet at one another’s homes over a game of cards. These get-togethers became known as “les veillées” and people invited each other to their homes to share these enjoyable moments.
The women of the house prepared a “taillé” (a simple pastry made of eggs, sugar, flour and cinnamon). The children were on their best behaviour in the hopes that they too would deserve a piece of “taillé” and a cup of tea before going to bed.
These evenings generally finished fairly early, at the latest by 10 p.m., since the journey home in the snow and cold often took a long time !
La Saint-Antoine (17th January)
If you are in Rougemont on 17th January, you will see a gathering in the middle of the village selling assorted cold meats and traditional pastries.
Celebrating the 17th January (the devil’s fair) is an old-age tradition. The sun is so low in the sky from mid-December to mid-January that it sets behind the Rubly mountain by the middle of the day (between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.) On 17th January, it is again high enough to pass above the summit of the mountain and warm the village with its rays.
In the past, it was at this date that the farmers settled their bills. They paid the money due for cows rented from others the preceding summer, and took on the necessary workers for the coming season. In those days, agreements were sealed by shaking hands and nobody went back on his word.
Today, the tradition is kept alive and the Municipal council holds its weekly meeting on the morning of the Saint-Antoine. Contracts for renting the Commune’s alpine pastures are signed at the local inn.
Woodcutters and carters
Not so long ago, before the arrival of tractors, horses were used for transporting logs during the winter season.
Thus, the teams of men and horses settled in extremely remote places and lived in very simple alpine chalets with temperatures of about minus 20°C. The dung even froze behind the horses! The ice had to be broken before being able to use water from the stream or trough for men and horses. Very often the same recipient (“bassine”) was used for watering the horses and for making the tea. Food for the week was reduced to bread, bacon and cheese. The only cooked meals were macaroni cheese or polenta. They were prepared in the evening in the same recipient as was used for making tea.
In these conditions, the lavatory was reduced to its most simple expression… To be able to cling to the steep, icy slopes, the men’s boots as well as the horses’ shoes were spiked with what were called “potzes”.
The logs that had been cut were taken to the sawmills in the valley. Work time was calculated and paid “tools in hand”. Thus, if the journey to the place of work took more than 2 hours, it was wise to start out early so as to receive a day’s complete wage. The week’s wages were distributed on Saturday evening and if the employer was generous he would pay a litre or two of wine for his workers.
It is interesting to evoke the present-day problems of working conditions with the survivors of those hard times…who, in spite of all, talk of “the good old days”!