Carnival of Binche

Carnival of Binche
The city of Binche, Belgium hosts one of the oldest Carnival celebrations in Europe. The Carnival of Binche dates back to the 14th century. In 2003, UNESCO declared it one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Other carnivals on this list include the Carnival of Oruro (Bolivia), the Carnival of Barranquilla (Colombia), and more.

Binche is a relatively small municipality in the Belgian province of Hainaut with a total population of just over 32,000. It is famous for hosting one of the biggest Carnivals in Belgium. Every February thousands of people arrive in Binch to participate in the festivities.

The Carnival of Binche is a three-day celebration that takes place during the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent). The festivities include street performances consisting of dancing, marching and musical acts.

The oldest and principal participants of the Binche Carnival are the Gilles. The Gilles are clown-like characters wearing a traditional costume that consists of a linen suit with heraldic designs in the colors of the Belgian flag, trimmed with white lace cuffs and collars.

The Gilles also wear wooden clogs and belts with bells, some also don large hats adorned with ostrich plumes. In the morning, they wear wax masks which are removed as soon as the Gilles reach the town hall. All Gilles are male and range in age from 3 to 60 years old. Being a Gille at the carnival is considered an honor among local men.

The parade of the Gilles is the highlight of Shrove Tuesday in Binche. From dawn of the morning until late a night, about a thousand Gilles march through the town. They dance to the beat of the drums, ward off evil spirits with tied bunches of twigs called ramons, and throw blood oranges in the crowd.

Although the throwing of oranges has caused damage to property in the past, the tradition still persists because the oranges thrown by the Gilles are believed to bring good luck. They are a gift from the Gilles and it is considered an insult to throw them back.

Carnival of Binche

Photo: Antonio Ponte




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