- Folklore and Tradition
The carnival calendar begins with a bang in Binche. Every Shrove Tuesday, this walled city in west Wallonia plays host to a festival so ancient it has been certified by UNESCO as a “Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity”. Indeed, Binche has been a byword for indulgence for so long that it actually gave the English language the term “binge”.
The undisputed stars of the Carnival de Binche are outlandish costumed male characters called “Gilles”, who are dressed identically in masks and straw-padded suits bearing heraldic symbols and jingling bells (a homage to the elaborate, Inca-inspired costumes worn by guests at an infamous feast held here in 1549 to honour Emperor Charles V).
Early on Shrove Tuesday, small “brotherhoods” of Gilles clomp their way down to Binche’s fairytale town hall in their matching clogs. Here the participants perform a time-honoured, formalised dance while shaking wooden sticks to scare off any lurking evil spirits.
Once all the brotherhoods are assembled, the Gilles unite into an enormous pack of up to a thousand men, don ornate ostrich-feathered headgear and march back across town together. Each now carries a wicker basket full of oranges and lobs the fruit intermittently into the heaving crowd. (It is incredibly bad luck to throw one back: the oranges are metaphorical blessings).
So important has the Binche festival become that it has spawned a permanent museum here too. The International Carnival and Mask Museum traces the history of similar festivals and carnivals across the world, including detailed analysis of those held here in Wallonia.
From 9 am, the city will be animated by transvestites, violins and drums.
From 15h, starting the procession will start from Place Eugène Derbaix
From 10 am, you can accompany the youth orchestra on the viola.
From 4 pm, the Rondeau de l'amitié will take place on the Grand-Place.
From 7 pm, come and see the magnificent fireworks display on Place Eugène Derbaix.
At dawn, Gilles, Peasants, Pierrots Clowns and Harlequins animate the city.
From 8:30 am, wearing a wax mask and a reception at the Hotel de Ville.
From 15h, the Cortège and rondeau take place on the Grand-Place.
From 8 pm, procession to the lights and rondeau.
From 9.30 pm onwards, the Grand-Place is set on fire.