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Carnival of Binche - Les Gilles de Binche

  • Folklore and Tradition
From Sunday 03 to Tuesday 05 March 2019.

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 Gilles

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 Binches 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.


Program

Sunday

From 9 am, the city will be animated by transvestites, violins and drums.
From 15h, starting the procession will start from Place Eugène Derbaix

Monday

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.

Mardi Gras

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.

 

Schedule

From Sunday 03 to Tuesday 05 March 2019.
The information provided is an indication only. We advise you to inquire directly with the organisers of the event that interests you before you leave.