Published on February 13, 2012 | by Elena


The Carnival of Binche – a Unesco World Heritage Event in Europe

The Carnival of Binche, which has even been listed by UNESCO because of its cultural significance and longevity, is the biggest and the liveliest annual event in Belgium. The Carnival in Binche, a peaceful town some 60 kilometers south of Brussels, takes place this year from February 19th to 21st, with Shrove Tuesday as the highlight before the ritual fasting, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

The Carnaval de Binche is a serious celebration that takes months to prepare, culminating on the three days preceding Lent.

Shrove Sunday marks the official start of the event: the coffee houses and the streets fill with crowds of disguised celebrators according to the local tradition of the first day of the Carnival. The main attraction of the day is the Mam’selles (men dressed up in elaborate female clothing) opening the dance. Confetti battles and fireworks will liven up the streets and then street dancing, parades and thousands of masks, in a truly exciting atmosphere.

Belgium’s Carnaval de Binche is one of the oldest in the world and its origins date back to the 14th century. The best day to visit is Shrove Tuesday – Mardi Gras – when hundreds of the townsfolk gather in the city centre dressed as Gilles – odd clowns – wearing like characters wearing a hat covered with ostrich feathers, a wax mask, and a medieval costume hung with bells and decorated with fluffy lace at the neck, wrists and ankles. The Gilles also carry baskets of Blood Oranges ready to hurl into the waiting crowds. Don’t be scared if you get hit by the orange crush – it’s actually considered a honor to be singled out for the citrus treatment.

The carnival of Binche attracts thousands of locals and tourists every year, who flock to this town to enjoy this historic, fun Belgian Carnival. On Sunday (Feb 19 this year), local women are allowed to take part in the festivities but Shrove Tuesday is strictly for Binche men, and any sort of visitor, of course.

This festival reaches climax on Tuesday night, when the town is lit up by a fireworks display with the Gilles and onlookers dancing around a huge Carnival bonfire until the sun rises and Lent officially begins.
The carnival of Binche has been registered at the Cultural and Immaterial Patrimony of the UNESCO in 2003. There’s also a carnival museum in town, which tells visitors how this fascinating tradition began.

Photo by Alaskan Dude

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About the Author

Hey there! My name is Elena and I live in Pavia, where I work as a freelance journalist and Events Coordinator. My personal interests are culture, languages and art. I love travelling and learning about foreign cultures and different lifestyles, and then I like to share my experiences with others writing articles for this blog. My passions drive me forward to live the life of my dreams, and well that’s what I am really good at!

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