La Ducasse de Mons, or the Doudou, was this weekend. Need a little history? See here.
If you recall, last year Ben and I got to see the Lumeçon, or the battle, from above after we accompanied the General to his fancy, pre-battle, party. This year, no fancy party for us, so we joined the rest of the crowd and decided to watch the procession instead.
And that is where the contradiction begins.
The Ducasse was originally meant to be a solemn procession of religious relics and it still is… to begin with. Paraded through the streets are shrines and statues of all the different churches in the area by representatives in historical costumes. Very calm and respectful. The procession ends with the Car d’Or, or the Golden Cart, pulled by horses, making it’s way up the steep hill by Sainte-Waudru Collegiate Church. It has to make it in one try or misfortune will befall the city. To make sure it makes it up the steep cobblestones, the people of Mons have decided to give it help by pushing the cart. The pushing has become an event unto itself. The biggest men, the local college kids, the people who have been drinking all morning, gather just outside the church, lining the final hill to get their hands on the cart. Apparently, the adrenaline these guys have built up as they wait for the cart turns the area into a sort of riot waiting to happen.
The excitement of the final push of the cart led to a problem. For a while, la rampe, or the final hill, was consistently blocked by the riot-ready crowd. To avoid this, a group was formed in 1993 to keep the spectators from spilling into the street and blocking the procession. They dress in orange, spend most of the morning singing and chanting and then, as the crowd gets more and more excited, they link arms and do their best to keep the mass of people out of the road. So now the respectful, calm, religious processional has turned into nervous kids and church elders marching through a mosh pit.
We watched the parade from a corner of the road, half a block away from the final hill. When the cart came around the corner though, we weren’t far enough away. The excitement of the last cart push got the better of the crowd and they started early. The kids panicked, we were all a bit crushed. We’ve all agreed that next year we will watch from behind the fence.
After the parade we decided to walk down to the Grande Place to see St. George battle the dragon. That didn’t happen. The streets were blocked by revelers who had the exact same idea, so we opted out. Enough doudou for one day.
I can’t help but wonder what the original creators would think of the madness that now surrounds their event.