Binche: Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras at Binche Carnaval, Belgium.

The main Carnaval at Binche takes place over the three days leading up to and including Shrove Tuesday, known as Dimanche Gras, Lundi Gras and Mardi Gras (although band rehearsals and various other preparations take place for six weeks before that).

Early on the morning of Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, the identically-costumed Gilles begin to gather from long before dawn, starting at the outskirts of the town and moving inwards, meeting at the next one’s house, the groups growing ever-greater in number as they gradually coalesce. At a certain point in the day, for a brief period, the Gilles (who will number almost 1,000 in 2017) all put on unnervingly identical wax masks and dance a slow, steady circle dance, holding their ramons (short wicker batons) between them.

Later in the afternoon they don spectacular tall headdresses made of white or slightly tinted ostrich feathers. They carry baskets of oranges, to throw to, or at, the crowd, and sometimes even through upstairs windows if they have been left open. The day finishes with spectacular fireworks in the town square.

 

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