Monday, March 14, 2011


The carnival of Binche is an event that takes place each year (one hour train from Brussels) during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The carnival is the most known in Belgium and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity listed by UNESCO in November 2003. Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century, but probably even before that. Nobody knows exactly the origin and when it really started.

I had never been to the carnival of Binche, but as 3 of my painting class mates wanted to go there to watch the procession, I thought this would be fun and certainly interesting too. I wrote about this here

And it was ! I don't want to write down here what you can read in books and brochures, so if you want to know more about the Carnival of Binche traditions you can read them here.

The most important day is Mardi Gras where the parade takes place with more than 900 Gilles and to see that we took the train from Brussels to Binche. There was even a special price for the carnival train ticket !

During the procession, the « Gille » wears his impressive hat covered with ostrich feathers and throws oranges in the crowd ! I tell you I was a little afraid because of my glasses ! Some people had protected their windows with grids !

During the procession besides the "Gille" other characters dance at his side : the Paysans » (peasants), the « Pierrots » and the « Arlequins », and of course all people are dancing on the streets to the rythm of the drums.

First thing we did, to join in the fun, was buying a wig.

People were disguised and some costumes were really very funny. In the windows the inhabitants watched the parade.

This is not the Queen of England ... even the police had fun

By pure coincidence I had the chance to watch how the Gille put on his hat again, which is very heavy !

I was sitting there and had a sandwich when I saw some of them coming out of a door besides the church, what a chance to get such a close look on their costume.

Besides the impressive ostrich-feather hat, each decorative detail of his costume- the lion of Belgium, heraldry, crowns or stars- has a symbolic meaning.

The national colours of black, yellow and red dominate. Certain parts of the costume may require dozens of metres of material- up to 150 metres of ribbon may be needed to make the ruff for example.

The Gille also wears a belt of 7 to 9 bells worn around the waist, as well as a smaller bell on his shirt front on his feet he wears clogs. Each Gille is bound to respect certain customs. He must come from Binche, and must not sit down in public, ever get drunk (I have my little doubts about that) or go anywhere without being accompanied by (at the very least) a drummer.

Thanks to my wig, a Gille asked me to pose besides him !

When the hat gets older the feathers become grey, so the feathers are painted to refresh their look.

As you can see the carnival starts quiet early with Champagne

The weather was fantastic and these young men had a real good view over the procession.

the rest of us was not so lucky

There were so many people watching the procession that it was impossible for me to take better pictures.

But at least it gives an idea of the athmosphere

Unfortunately my video didn't come out well at all, so I took this from YouTube, just that you can hear the drums ! One who is not used to that, quickly gets enough of this rather monotonous music.

The streets were full of people from all over the country and there were also lots of English tourists !

We had a lot of fun

Binche is a beautiful little town

a part from the old city wall

a nice building, I liked the architecture

and the Station where we arrived and had to take our train back to Brussels.

more participants here


A Lady's Life said...

This was great! I love the costumes and the parade. Sounds like soo much fun .
I am in awe of these city streets which ooze of history. I always wish I could go back in time and see them when they were built. So interesting.

Karen said...

Fun shots! I love your orange "hair".

Sylvia K said...

How fantastic! And what fun!! Love your spiky orange hair! And such great, fun shots for the day! My kind of day and in such a historic place! FUN! Hope you have a great week, Gattina!


Kay L. Davies said...

What a lot of fun you had!
See you soon.
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Joyful said...

It looks like a wonderful fun day! I love your orange hat ;-)

Marja said...

What a great carnaval you got. The enormous hats are impressive and your orange manes are not bad either

LadyFi said...

So much joy and laughter in these shots. Looks like great fun!

diane b said...

Wow! What a colourful exciting day. It sounds like a magic carnival and such an old tradition. Bill's town in Switzerland has something similar in September. You look a wag in your wig. I bet you had fun. Those hats of the gille are amazing.

Unknown said...

i love your orange wig!:p
these are so much fun...the hug white wig reminds me of cotton candy. amazing costumes and buildings.

Walk in New York said...

belle photo du carnaval

Publicity ;o) Every Friday (and the Weekend), The Challenge "Walk In The Street Photography"

Gracie said...

That is really great, I'd have fun too! It looks like a great time to spend enjoying the people around you and the festive atmosphere!

Maribeth said...

That is a totally fabulous time!!! Thanks for sharing this!!!

Loree said...

How interesting, I had never heard of the carnival of Binche. The children look so sweet and I am in awe of the men with the ostrich feathers.

Linens and Royals said...

Thanks once again for showing me another slice of your life. I almost felt I was there too and wish i had been.

Personalized Sketches and Sentiments said...

Looks like lots of fun! I was amazed at the Gille's huge hat! How many Gilles are there? Fun day to spend with friends :o)

Blessings & Aloha!
Thank you also for stopping by and for your comment!

Travel France Online said...

Splendid post! I knew of the Carnival of Binche, saw many photos of the Gilles etc...always been very intrigued by it, and I really would like to attend this carnival one day. very colourful,but also such an ancient tradition that has survived the centuries!
Thanks for sharing with us!

Trotter said...

Hi Gattina! Wow! You're looking great!!! So, next year, Rio de Janeiro... ;))

OK; I know that contemporary art doesn’t take unanimous approval... But some pieces are worth seeing. Check it at Blogtrotter Two, enjoy and have a superb weekend!!

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I was fortunate enough to get there this year, but my post is not as concise as yours, it's all over the place!

We had two strollers we were pushing around so I wasn't able to really enjoy it, but I still had fun.


About Me

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I love painting, writing, travelling and photography. My favorit models are cats which I observe with fun and humor. I am German, married to an Italian and we live in Waterloo (15 km from Brussels) / Belgium since many years. Waterloo is a famous place to many tourists, because Napoleon lost his battle here against Wellington and other European countries.


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