Throwing Oranges – The Carnival of Binche
Dating from around the 1300’s, The Carnival of Binche is one of the strangest spectacles out there.
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.
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.
Posted on May 25, 2011, in Belgium, travel and tagged belgie, belgique, belgium, binche, carnaval, carnival, festival, francophone, holga, mardi-gras, medieval, photography, shrove tuesday, wallonia, wallonie. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.