Mardi Gras in Belgium
Mardi Gras in Belgium

All about Mardi Gras... in Belgium

In Dunkirk, a drum major leads the parade of costumed revellers. Organized by group, they parade to the rhythm of the music through the city streets, stopping in front of city hall, where a smoked herring toss is performed by the mayor and the city council. 

Binche hosts the most acclaimed carnival celebrations in Belgium. Recognized as a masterpiece of oral and intanglible heritage by UNESCO, the parade features characters like Harlequin and Pierrot. The celebrations start long before Fat Tuesday. Six weeks earlier, the "soumonces," a kind of uncostumed rehearsal, are an excuse for the revelry to begin. 

Mardi Gras in Belgium 2

The only day on which the "Gilles" come out is Mardi Gras. They begin to assemble at four in the morning. The sound of the drums brings them out of their houses one by one (a Gille can't move without music). After a glass of champagne, the official drink of the King of Carnival, and a breakfast of oysters, the traditional meal, the paraders make their way toward the centre where the Gilles put on their white wax masks. By 11 a.m., the various societies finish their morning parade in front of city hall. The Gilles make a final sortie around 3 p.m. in full costume, including ostrich plumes, carrying large baskets. It's veritable rain of oranges that falls on spectators - so much so, that the windows on the front of buildings are protected by grates to be safe. The culmination of carnival! 

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