A friend of mine went to this big event in Belgium and shares her experience with us.
In the days and weeks leading up to lent on the Christian calendar, with the climax being Shrove Tuesday (the day before Ash Wednesday), festivities abound in many parts of the world. In many towns and villages in southern Belgium, the traditions developed over the ages have been carried down and still continue today. We enjoyed being spectators in Binche, one of the most traditional and fun carnival celebrations in Belgium.
There is much build-up and rehearsals in the weeks before the final weekend and Shrove Tuesday. We visited on the Sunday before Shrove Tuesday. En route in the train, we were surrounded by fellow passengers in all sorts of bright outfits, including a young tiger, an angel and a couple with cow heads instead of human heads. We jumped off the train and walked through the beautiful train station, following the throng of people.
The parade was a slow-moving collection of fantastic creatures and fairy-tale characters… skeleton crews, scuba diving teams, Far Eastern troops carrying red oriental lanterns, the Serena & Venus Williams tennis brigade, clowns, marching brass bands, Mexican sombrero-wielding troupes, man-size swarms of bees,… There were many other fantastical creatures that I dare not propose their identities! The parade moved slowly, with much noise and fanfare, with plenty of time to enjoy the costumes and the obvious pride of the participants.
The big day in Binche occurs on Shrove Tuesday, which we were unfortunately not able to attend. On Shrove Tuesday, the gilles (men native to the town of Binche) wear another special outfit, have more processions and dances to drums, and throw oranges at the onlookers from the large baskets that they are carrying (this is supposedly meant to bless them with abundance in the following summer). For more information about the carnival of Binche and to enjoy this next year, consult www.carnavaldebinche.be.
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