French tradition of catherinettes

The tradition of the Catherinettes

November 25th, Saint Catherine's Day, is the day of the Catherinettes. It is a celebration of the 25 year old girls who are not yet married.
The tradition is to wear an extravagant hat in yellow and green tones made for or by them, in their image.

What is the origin of this tradition ?

Saint Catherine of Alexandria lived in the 4th century after Jesus Christ, it is said according to history and perhaps legend, that the emperor Maxentius wanted to marry her, Catherine having refused, she was imprisoned and martyred. Having undergone the terrible ordeal of being quartered on the wheel, Catherine resisted and Emperor Maxentius had her head cut off on November 25, 307.

Saint Catherine is today the patron saint of girls to be married, but also of theologians, philosophers, orators, notaries, students, milliners (hatters), dressmakers, etc... The tradition of Saint Catherine goes back to the Middle Ages. At that time, girls of 25 years old who were not yet married dressed in extravagant outfits and hats and went in procession in front of a statue of Saint Catherine to adorn her with flowers, ribbons, hats ... They wore Saint Catherine's hair in the hope of finding a husband.
In Paris in the past, the catherinettes went to the ball and those who wanted to find a husband put a crazy hat on their head. They hung yellow and green objects on it to get noticed. It was also said that yellow symbolizes success and green symbolizes hope... of finding a husband!

Until the 1980s, the famous fashion houses of Paris (Balmain, Givenchy, Dior, Schiaparelli etc...) organized for Saint Catherine's Day, very large parties. The "catherinettes" would then gather in the streets, in joyful processions, and often the Saint Catherine's Day, ended in the balls that were organized, for this festival.

Saint Catherine's Day today

The tradition of Saint Catherine's Day has been lost. Nowadays, to celebrate Saint Catherine's Day, we send at most a postcard... better an electronic card or even an e-mail! Times are changing.
The catherinette is still in the spotlight today but the search for a husband is not really topical anymore. Indeed, women are getting married later and later, and not being "set up" at 25 is far from being unusual. It must also be said that nowadays, many young, single people, whether they are young girls or young men, do not get married before the age of 25, and many young people are still living with their parents !
In addition, the stigmatization of single women is no longer appropriate in our time, where the emancipation of women has progressed greatly and where many couples live outside the sacraments of marriage.

The feast of St. Catherine is mostly an opportunity to gently mock young single women over 25 years, and to dress them in fancy hats. The catherinette is the queen of the party, for one day. It is a convivial event that is still practiced in small towns and some companies, and the catherinette party has become a folkloric spectacle, which puts a little cheerfulness at the approach of winter.


The feast of Saint Catherine is not always well received by those interested and the hat of catherinette is sometimes heavy to wear. Think of flowers or treats so that this event does not traumatize your favorite catherinette !