This week’s adventure was the Carnaval de Binche. Belgium’s most famous carnival, it has been in existence since the 1400s. After several days of partying, the parade season in Binche ends with the parade of the “Gilles” on Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday. Did you know there is also a Fat Sunday and Fat Monday. I had no idea….
It is an honor to be chosen to be a Gilles. One of the main requirements is to have been born in Binche. Boys are groomed for the task from childhood. The costume of Belgian colors is stuffed with straw and topped, in the morning, by a (creepy) wax mask and in the afternoon by an enormous hat made of ostrich feathers.
The parade begins after each gilles is called out of whatever bar they have spent the morning in by their drummer, who they cannot move around the city without. Slowly they make their way to the start of the parade. Slowly. The parade was supposed to begin at 3:00 and finally made it to where we were around 5:00. This is not a long parade. We could see where they were lining up at the start from where we were standing… at the end.
Then the orange throwing begins. The gilles toss oranges into the crowd, sometimes with a lot of force. Most of the buildings that line the route have specially made screens for protection. The oranges are considered a gift from the gilles and it is disrespectful to throw them back. Wise move. I can only image the food fight that would ensue otherwise. We saw grown men sitting on shoulders, trying to catch oranges.
The kids had a great time trying to catch oranges. Chasing down the ones that were rolling in the street even kept them from thinking about their frozen fingers and toes.
Confetti is another carnival tradition. I’ll be vacuuming it up for weeks.
(Update! We went again in 2015. Click here for more oranges….)