You know it’s springtime in Belgium when you can spend an entire weekend out of the house, celebrating something, and this weekend’s weather was perfect for being outside, at a few festivités locales.
Saturday we went back to Liberchies for Djangofest, a festival celebrating Django Reinhardt and his music. This tiny village attracts some wonderful gypsy jazz musicians and some unique street performers including stilt walkers, dream analyzers and, my favorite, a band of leopard and fur clad dancers passing out screen printed crêpes. Yes, only in Belgium will you find Django Reinhardt’s face screen printed in chocolate on a crêpe. And, in case you were wondering where all the Belgian hipsters have been hiding, the answer is… at gypsy jazz festivals.
Sunday started at a brocante. Because that’s what this mother wants to do on Mother’s Day. Then we headed to Ypres for the Kattenstoet, or Festival of Cats.
Once every three years, Ypres celebrates its history by tossing cats off the town belfry. Plush cats, I should say. Evidently, the town was centered around the cloth industry in the middle ages. Wool was stored during the winter in the Cloth Hall but would attract mice. To rid the tower of mice, cats were brought in. But what was the city to do with all the cats once their services were no longer required? The were unceremoniously tossed from the top of the tower. Problem solved.
These days, cats are celebrated in Ypres with a parade, and, I must say, it’s quite a good one. The floats and giants are very well done. No high school kids riding in the back of a pick up with a cat painted on the side by a teenage artist of questionable ability. No “Ypres Cat Princess, 2015” who clearly doesn’t want to be there.
Also, cats are evil and the good pals of witches. So they burn one of those, too.
When the parade concludes, the crowd rushes to stand below the belfry to await the tossing of the cats. As with most of these kinds of historic, folklore filled events in Belgium, the crowd can get kind of rough once the event begins. Grown men pile on top of each other and wind up wrestling on the ground for a tiny stuffed cat. My advice? Do not bring small children into the crowd. Ben stayed in the group but the kids and I watched from the sidelines after the cats started flying.
No cats caught by the Martins, but it’s just as well. You can buy them in any souvenir shop in Ypres.
Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!