The Gilles of Binche are stars of Belgian folklore and ambassadors of the carnivals of Wallonia throughout the world.
The Carnival of Binche and its famous Gilles were recognised as a masterpiece of the a masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2003. With their feathered ostrich hats and their orange-throwing into the crowd the Gilles are a memorable sight.
The Gilles are not exclusive to Binche. Nivelles also has its Gilles who hammer the soil with their hooves. Here they are accompanied by the local giants Argayon, Argayonne and their son Lolo. You will also find Gilles in Charleroi and Tamines.
Traditional Rhineland Carnival
In the Eastern townships, especially in Eupen and the surrounding area, the Carnival is Rhine-inspired. In Eupen, La Calamine and Raeren, the carnival begins at 11am on 11 November and is presided over by the Carnival Prince. In Eupen, on ‘Old Women's Thursday, the womenfolk take control of the town for the day. The procession takes place on « Rosenmontag » or « Monday of the Roses ». At Welkenraedt, the carnival is also Rhine-inspired, but takes place on Laetare, the fourth Sunday of Lent.
Big Beast, Bad Good, La Haguète: Carnival stars
Some carnivals, such as the one at Marche-en-Famenne with its #link[node|34959|Gross Biesse (Big Beast)], or Parekh and its ‘Mauvais Bien’ (literally, Bad Good) are related to a personality or a legendary character of the region. In Malmedy, the carnival becomes "Cwarmê Mâm'dî", because at Carnaval de Malmedy only Walloon is spoken. At the heart of the festivities, the character of ‘La Haguète’ is burned on the day of Mardi Gras, better known in the UK as Shrove Tuesday.
At Dinant, the carnival honours its giants: Guinguet, Cafonnette and the Bayard horse are the key figures in the procession. While in Beloeil, the carnival displays a traditional local sport: the crossing.
In Ophain, the carnival puts children in the spotlight, and many other towns also dedicate a day to young people. At Amay, the key word is ambience: it’s all about atmosphere.
In Ermeton, the ‘Tchesse aux Macrales’ takes place for a parody of the witch trials that were held there in the sixteenth century.
No two carnivals in Wallonia are the same. They are all colourful, lavish and driven by the rhythm of drums, blare and fanfares. Every carnival town and village in Wallonia invites you to their fête.