Crowds made bonfires… threw objects into them… [a] favorite object was cats—cats tied up in bags, cats suspended from ropes, or cats burned at the stake. Parisians liked to incinerate cats by the sackful, while the Courimauds (cour à miaud, or cat chasers) of Saint Chamond preferred to chase a flaming cat throughout the streets. In parts of Burgundy and Lorraine they danced around a kind of burning May pole with a cat tied to it. In the Metz region they burned a dozen cats at a time in a basket on top of a bonfire. The ceremony took place with great pomp in Metz itself, until it was abolished in 1765. The town dignitaries arrived in procession at the Place du Grand-Saulcy, lit the pyre, and a ring of riflemen from the garrison fired off volleys while the cats disappeared screaming in the flames.
I feel it is relevant and particularly enlightening to note that the French national anthem has a special verse, only to be sung by children, in which the singer pledges to enter the military, die in battle, and share a coffin with his or her parents.