Carnival of Binche : The world’s Weirdest Festival

Culturally,Belgium has been known to be especially unique for centuries and it has pomp to prove it in the colourful parades, festivals, and folklore kept alive today by its citizens. Fascinating ancient ancestral celebrations ring in the streets of this nation in everlasting unique ways. Public traditions are held in important regard; the culture is far from being lost or forgotten any time soon in Belgium with the level of commitment that the residents maintain year after year.

The various events of Belgian folklore are predominately honoured by region rather than nationally as holidays might be. Huge droves of nationals as well as visitors from abroad travel every year to experience the unique Belgian hospitality and culture; taking a ferry from England is done by many who wish to access Belgium from France. Going to see historic festivals is one of the best ways to experience folklore as it has been handed down generation after generation. You can easily reach the festivities from the UK by car or bus traveling the ferry on route from Hull to Zeebrugge in Belgium which is a two hour drive from Binche.

Passing down customs is done on a large scale, there is very little forgotten in this country of proud people and they celebrate as much about their history as they can pass on.The popular beliefs and myths of the Belgian culture are most commonly supported by public events such as processions where people paint their faces, play loud music from fantastically adorned bands, dress in the costumes and bring their families to celebrate.

One of the famous and internationally recognized events of Belgium is the Carnival of Binche. This folkloric carnival historically takes place in the town of Binche located in the west central province of Hainaut close to the French border. Binche has a moderately sized population of less than 35,000 people and the municipality officially covers less than 61km (24 miles). While being quite small, the enthusiasm is unmatched some say from this region. The historic city of Binche has been hosting the carnival since the 14th Century. Other cities in Belgium have carnivals of their own around the same time that Binche; however the Carnival of Binche has been most recognized and attended out of the post-Ash Wednesday celebrations in the region.

The Carnival of Binche begins several weeks before Ash-Wednesday events. The main shrove events are on the Sundays which occur before Ash-Wednesday, when the parade kicks off. You may see the locals dressed up as Gilles while marching to the music incolourful garments. The Gilles are what people call the dressed up wooden shoe and mask wearing performers that stomp and parade through the streets. To become a Gilles is highly sought after and respected tradition.

The gathering of the Gilles on Shrove Sunday marks the procession departure with violas and tambours marching into the heart of Binche. On Monday there are youths and fireworks. On Tuesday hundreds of Gilles,wearing wax masks, scarlet and gold clotting frantically wave sticks in the air to keep away bad sprits from the people and the town. They take their mask and then toss oranges for good luck into the crowds. Gilles also wear festive head gear on top of their heads, adorned with large ostrich feathers.

UNESCO honored Binche for its Carnival which is described as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage.

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