Carnival of Binche in Belgium

MARDI GRAS is also known as the Carnival of Binche in Belgium.

Each year this carnival is organized by the Town of Binche.

Belgium has a rich history of festivals dating back to as old as 500 years. Mardi Gras is one such festival. It is the most acclaimed festival which is hosted in the month of February.

Carnival of Binche in Belgium
Image Source: pixabay.com
 

Due to its roots in the medieval period of 14th century, UNESCO awarded it as the Cultural Treasure of the World. 

The origin is still unknown. As per the tradition, Mary of Hungary organized the parade, in 1549, for her brother Charles Quint. You can still see the Castle remnants by the Saint Ursmer Collegiate Church. It is located in the city center. People used to wear colorful costumes to the parade which later became the Modern Gille's Costume origin. Gilles is festival's main character and is always grouped in societies.

"Mardi Gras" is the only day they come out in public.

1. When is it celebrated

The festival begins on Shrove Sunday and continues till Fat Tuesday. The carnival celebrations end before the Ash Wednesday. 

2. Pre-Carnival Festivities

The activities begin on Sunday, six weeks before the Shrove Tuesday. There are drum rehearsals with the parade practice. The day finally ends with the music party. The Gilles-to-be put their belts on with small bells tagged on it. 

The Youth organizes the gala events like Ball for children, ball for society youth, ball for liberal and Catholic youth, each separately. 

3. How the events take place?

It starts on Shrove Sunday with the event to drive away all the evil spirits.

The musical events on Shrove Monday then follow it. 

The main event of Gilles takes place on Shrove Tuesday.

The most vibrant day of the year is Shrove Sunday. Champagne is the official drink of the king of carnival. After having a glass of champagne, and a traditional breakfast including oysters, families start walking toward the center where the celebration is about to begin. They dance off the whole day to the night.

Shrove Monday is the day dedicated to youth and children, especially. The cafe of the city organizes it. The youth dances off whole day throughout the town, walking streets from cafe to cafe. They gather at the station during the dusk till the fireworks.

4. It's Gille's Show on Shrove Tuesday!!

1000+ local people dress up in a specific costume of Gille. At 4, in the morning, the Gilles begin to assemble. 

Gilles put on a mask which is made of wax. The wax mask consists of the decorations like green glass, a moustache, side whiskers.

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European Union gave Binche the exclusive right to wear masks in 1985 with its registration to the patent office. The mask is solely meant for the Gille society to be worn and sold.

A Gille can't move without their music. One by one, on the beat of drums, they start coming out of their houses. By 11 a.m., the various societies finish their morning parade in front of city hall.

In the main square, with the shaking of sticks, the Gilles begin warding off the evil spirits.

Around noon, everyone eats their lunch at home. 

They then decorate themselves in exorbitant ostrich feather headdresses. When dancing to the choreographed steps with the drum beats, they take up arms in the form of oranges. They start throwing oranges at the crowd while marching through the town.  These oranges may cause damage to the public or private property while leaving people with bruises. Somme throwers can be gentle, while many are aggressive.

The oranges are the gifts, symbolizing warmer months ahead. It is done with a good intention. 

During the night, the festival ends with a lot of fireworks. All the societies continue to dance all night on the rhythm of the drum.

Everyone leaves before dawn. 

The festival celebrates a good spirit in each of the people in the town.

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