Winter is almost over, spring is in the air. Carnival is back in Wallonia: get out your confetti, streamers and masks!
The ever-popular carnivals of Wallonia are the perfect opportunity for a great family day out. Festivities begin with Mardi Gras, at the start of Lent. The folklore varies greatly from one region to another, one town to another, but you can rely on all the carnivals to have oompah music, masks and lots of confetti.
Mardi Gras - put on your best masks
The parades and other carnival festivities in Wallonia lose nothing in comparison with the famous carnivals of Rio, Nice or Venice. The Gilles of Binche are undoubtedly the best-known in Belgium. The Cwarmê of Malmédy and its Haguète take you on a journey of carnival discovery.
Directly inspired by the neighbouring Rhineland carnivals, the Eupen festivities are unmissable. Friends and families travel from all over Wallonia to enjoy the carnival parades, with confetti-throwing floats, colourfully costumed carnival characters, masks and face painting of all kinds.
Traditionally, the carnival season starts in Lent: on Mardi Gras (Shrove Tuesday). Carnival offers everyone a last chance to feast before the traditional period of fasting.
Laetare and bonfires
In some regions, the carnival parades take place on Laetare, which falls halfway through Lent. Just like the carnival parades, the Laetare parades bring together princesses, cowboys, teddy bears, Zorros, and enthusiastic Smurfs.
On Laetare, you should also visit the Blancs Moussis of Stavelot - impressive characters who have represented Wallonia as far away as China. The Chinel of Fosses-la-Ville, with bumps on his front and back, looks superb in his embroidered costume.
Another popular tradition is making a comeback in Wallonia: bonfires. It's during these bonfires that locals burn the Bonhomme Hiver (a character who represents winter) or sometimes, a witch. The most popular of these large bonfires is at Bouge, near Namur.