The so- called “Flemish” vivat is a song with half-French and half-Latin lyrics formerly (and sometimes still) sung during festivals or weddings in the north of France.

This Flemish vivat has other functions; it is most often sung during wedding dinners, but it can also accompany a birthday (birth or marriage 1 ), or even a personal success (bac, permit, promotion …) [ref. necessary]

It is traditionally sung at the end of a meal, to honor a guest or a couple of guests.

During the singing, the person (or couple) honored sat while 2 persons horizontally hold a towel over his (their) head, a th person pouring some champagne or formerly of white wine on the towel.



The origins of the tradition, the air, and the words of this vivat are uncertain. They are given several possible sources:

  • The word Vivat means “he lives” (vivat is a subjunctive) or “Vive” (as in “Vivat Rex” which means Long Live the King ).
    At the bottom of some epitaphs one could read “Aeternam vivat” (that he lives for eternity).
    We find it sung in the chorus of a popular song called ” The feast of Sain-Anne” which is “Eh Courage, Vivat! Sa, his .. Eh courage Vivat!” 2 .
    The ” vivat ” was formerly in Europe shouted by the crowd to greet a new prince, king or emperor after his enthronementand high mass which accompanied, and before the banquet which followed 3 .
  • symbolic roots?  ; There used to be a rite of passage (the “rite of the vault”) that probably has very ancient origins. According to René Lecotté (a specialist in the arts and popular traditions ), he has been used by chivalry , companionship and freemasonry . It consisted of passing someone under a vault symbolized by joining arms or by a canvas held by at least two people. The ” passage under the vault ” is also a frequent dance figure in the traditional dances of many countries.
    This vivat is according to R. Lecotté a renovated version of the passage under the vault, Become (or returned?) Very popular in the xix th century and early xx th in northern France (from Dunkirk to the Lille region, through French Flanders at least), both in rural areas, urban and workers of Roubaix or Tourcoing 4 . According to this author, this rite could have been updated by the military, or by Freemasonry at the time of the French Revolution 1789 , and its dissemination to other countries could have been favored by engravings or images the representative…
  • The ritual of the stretched towel comes from a Hebrew tradition known as the chuppah. The Huppa is a canopy traditionally used during the Jewish wedding ceremony. It consists of a sheet, a cloth, sometimes a prayer shawl, extended or supported by four pillars, carried by assistants to the place where the ceremony will be held. It symbolizes the home that the couple will have to build. The word huppa appears in the Bible, in Joel (2:16) and the Psalms (19: 6). It represents a Jewish home symbolized by the veil and the four corners.
  • A possible origin and a little more “recent” could also be the Vivat ( Vivat rex ) which was in France ritually formulated at the time of the coronations and coronations of kings or of the emperor 5 . The figure of the king and the coronation had a double connotation, civil and religious, hence the use of Latin 6 . During the French Revolution, with the end of the monarchy, the Vivat could have been appropriate by the people.


Vivat vivat semper
Semper in aeternum
Let him live, let him live,
Let him live forever
Repeat incessantly, ceaselessly,
May he live forever,
Healthy in peace.
These are our wishes.
Vivat vivat semper
Semper in aeternum
(shouted) Let him live!


The archives of Professor René Debrie , specialist of the Picardy language contains some papers on the “Vivat Flamand” Papers Fund Prof. René Debrie  [ archive ] (specialist of the Picard language), handed to the archives by his widow Madame Jeannine Debrie ], inventoried by Marie De Witte (assistant diocesan archivist); departmental archives of the Somme (Num. directory 61 J, PDF, 60 p) it is kept in the Departmental Archives of the Somme(171)

Notes and references

  1. ↑ M Le Blan, Dhote S (2001) The North: a lifestyle between belfries and windmills; Avesnois, Hainaut, Lille metropolis, Heart of Flanders, Flanders-Opal Coast , Renaissance Du Livre, 2001 (see page 16/233)
  2. The writer and Toubon Champfleury, Jean-Baptiste-Theodore Weckerlin, Alexander Bida, Felix Bracquemond (1860) Popular songs of the provinces of France  [ archive ] , 224 pages (with Google books) see p 11, ” The feast of Sain-Anne” ; ” Music collected and transcribed with piano by JB Wekerlin “
  3. ↑ see eg page 75 and following in Pierre Le Boucq, Amedee The Boucq de Ternas (1857) [History of the most remarkable things happened in Flanders, Hainaut, Artois and neighboring countries since 1596 until 1674] ; Vve Ceret Carpentier
  4. ↑ Rene Lecotté (1957) A rite of passage renovated and popularized: The vault ; Popular Arts and Traditions 5th Year, No. 2/4 (April-December 1957), pp. 261-281; Presses Universitaires de France ( extract / 1st page  [ archive ] )
  5. ↑ RA Jackson (1984) Vivat rex history of coronations and coronations in France ; Ophrys editions
  6. ↑ Alain Boureau (1991), The French royal ceremonies and liturgical performance between legal competence  [ archive ] ; Annals. Economies, Societies, Civilizations, Vol.46, No. 6; pp. 1253-1264