Throwing Oranges – The Carnival of Binche

Dating from around the 1300’s, The Carnival of Binche is one of the strangest spectacles out there.

Gilles at LeCarnaval de Binche

Gilles at LeCarnaval de Binche - taken with the Holga

The festivities begin weeks before, in January, but on the three days leading up to Ash Wednesday, it escalates to a fever pitch, climaxing on Mardi-Gras.   There is an intricate ritual to the whole affair- The main participants are the “Gilles”, local men chosen to be the focal point of the festivities, which on Shrove Tuesday, begin at 4 or 5am after a breakfast of oysters and champagne.

The Gilles process through the streets to the Town Hall wearing wax masks and special costumes. Upon reaching Town Hall, they remove their masks and later in the day process again in small groups, stamping the pavement with clogs, beating drums, and shaking rattles made of bundles of sticks. This is supposedly to drive off evil spirits.

Gilles at the Carnaval de Binche

Gilles at the Carnaval de Binche

Around 3 in the afternoon, the Gilles don ostrich plumed hats, and in a huge parade, THROW ORANGES at the crowd. At night there are bonfires and fireworks.

In addition to the Gilles, a lot of kids dress up as well. It seems that all of Francophone Belgium SWAMPS the relatively small town of Binche on this day. The one hour train ride from Brussels deep into Wallonia is incredibly packed- passengers squished, some sitting on the floor next to the toilet.  Upon finally arriving, all hell breaks loose. Little kids in costume skip down the hill from the beautiful old train station, singing “Binche, Binche, Binche…”

Everyone else follows into town, and suddenly there are people everywhere, confetti all over the ground, drunk teenagers throwing cans, bars packed, and drum-beating clog-stomping Gilles as far as the eye can see.

Carnaval de Binche


About ventilateblog MUSIC Classically trained cellist. Attended Peabody Conservatory of Johns Hopkins University - degree in Music Composition, and three years of recording arts and audio electrical engineering. Multiple works for chamber groups and orchestra have been produced and performed. Singer-songwriter with rock and folk roots.. Electronica. Today, it's about mashing together all these things into improbable hybrids. Also, a longtime educator of music. PHOTOGRAPHY Unpredictable and in the moment is what I love. Streets, architecture, and people. Ruined places. History. Frozen moments. Great love for imagines wrought by beautiful mystery of film and vintage cheapy cameras. WRITING The vague, ephemeral. The historical - the ghosts behind the veil of time. Delving deeply into the intricacies of our physical and cultural world. Relaying memory and longing. And sometimes the absurd. Life runs deep. Life

Posted on May 25, 2011, in Belgium, travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: