Midway through Lent, rejoice - it's the Laetare in Wallonia

The carnivals of Laetare, the fourth Sunday of Lent, are every bit as colourful as the festivities of Mardi Gras. Want to see some traditional folklore, exotic masks and tankfuls of confetti?

The Blancs-Moussis of Stavelot are known far beyond the confines of Wallonia. With their long red noses, masked faces and bodies draped in white they’re an intriguing sight – and they’ve even performed in China. Armed with pigs’ bladders swollen like balloons, they gently attack the public.

In the town of Tilff, a folkloric group called the Porais de Tilff resemble a travelling vegetable garden as the cartoon leeks with legs dance around a giant  and other exotic creatures from distant history. The celebration ends with everyone in town tucking in to a bowl of hot leek soup.

In the Three Borders region, as in Welkenraedt, the carnivals are part of the Rhenish tradition, based on the legendary figure of the Prince Carnaval and his watchtower. They are notable for a piercing war cry: "Alaaf!”

The Chinels of Fosses-la-Ville are impressive in their richly decorated costumes. These characters from the Commedia Dell'Arte are decked out with a double hump: one on their chests, the other on their backs.  

Finally, Andenne invites you to its original and amazing Bear Carnival. The bear is the mascot of the village. The procession ends with the Carnival King and Queen throwing teddy bears.

Big fires to mark the end of winter

The Great Fire is a ceremony in which the Winter Snowman is burned. The most famous is undoubtedly the one that takes place around Bouge, a village in the Namur area, on the first Sunday of Lent. On this day, no fewer than seven bonfires are lit and are visible only from Bouge.

The Winter Snowman is burned in other towns, such as Gozée or Vierves-sur-Viroin, where the legendary character of Johan Simon goes up in flames in front of cheering crowds and loud fanfares.

Equally folkloric, the cavalcades are distinguished by horse-drawn chariots. These are akin to carnivals in that many of the participants, as well as the watching public, are disguised in a variety of costumes : everything from chariots to giants. You can see them in the province of Liège, in Herve, in the province of Namur at Auvelais, and at Jemappes in the province of Hainaut over Easter weekend.