Well Htmb just mentioned what finally hit me ~~ none of those children are girls! Really, it pretty much mars the whole thing for me, although the costumes are magnificent & your photos and presentation are wonderful.
The girls are empowered with other activities.... cooking, cleaning, sewing, washing.... Or they can be in the police.
I thought that the leg reflectors were excellent.
So, what about all of these oranges? Don't they empty those baskets and peasant satchels quickly?
You have seen hundreds of backpacks in the photos and video without paying attention. Look a bit more closely.
The blood oranges were definitely flying everywhere (but also delicately handed to small children and the elderly). The chicken wire over all of the windows and breakable signs were definitely a necessity. People had fishnets to catch oranges and sometimes some more questionable but also highly sucessful subterfuges.
Confetti flew everywhere as well. One thing that I have noticed in my visits to Binche is the large number of Japanese tourists who are present. Clearly one or more of the major Japanese guidebooks has made a big deal out of this event while France which is only 25 kilometres away is mostly totally unaware of the event.
The temperature had not risen above -2° all day and I was beginning to get a bit gilled out.
My time in Binche was coming to an end, even if the gilles were going to be gilling for several hours still, at least until the fireworks at 21:30. But I was driving back to Paris, which was about 250 km away. Finding the car would be a challenge, but I knew that my first landmark intersection to take was this church.
The cafés were still doing great business.
And the male customers were taking care of business themselves.
The confetti drifts were becoming impressive.
Not all of the oranges make it to a good home.
I'm done with Binche now, but perhaps at some time in the future, I will check out their rival town La Louvière, which is only about 15 km away. I was reading that the gilles of La Louvière are "too yellow" so an investigation may be in order.
What an unusual celebration. Blood oranges,I wonder how that came to be? So odd. Yes, those feather head dresses must weigh a ton!! Eisch, makes my neck hurt just looking at them. Here on St. Patrick's Day they toss out cabbage, potatoes and carrots. Great pictures Kerouac. Thanks for braving the crowds etc. to bring us this report. It certainly is one of a kind.
Like just about any other person living in France, I had never heard of this event, but one day a few years ago, I was driving along the southern rim of Belgium from Luxembourg before turning south to get down to Reims and on to Paris. It was about a month before the carnival season, but the Belgian station I was listening to was talking about the carnival traditions of Binche and La Louvière, describing all of these strange events that I had great difficulty picturing unless I could finally see them for myself some day.
I will never see some of the stuff, because they went into great detail about many of the gilles getting up around 4 a.m. on the big day and then going from house to house (with the obligatory drummer in spite of the time) to gather for their oyster and champagne breakfasts, and this sounded utterly fascinating. They also described the ritual of the costume and how they dressed -- with the hay stuffing around the chest, slippers inside the wooden shoes for comfort, the lacy frills and wrapping the head in those "headache" bands -- not forgetting to mention what a great financial burden it was to get every element of the costume.
The interviewer did make a point to ask about their girls. "Will a girl ever become a gilles?" The specialist said that it was inevitable but "not any time soon." He claimed that the women derive great pleasure from just getting the costumes perfect and draping them over their man. No mention was made about what the little girls might think about dressing up like the pierrots, the harlequins or the peasants.
One false impression that I got listening to all of this stuff was that the gilles were all young men, because the description was about how one grows up wanting to be a gilles and then finally getting the opportunity, so it seemed like a sort of cool rite of passage (if you are not afraid of clowns). It never crossed my mind for a moment that these guys remain gilles all their lives and still prance around wearing that stuff at a ripe old age. Frankly, I would approve of setting an age limit because the young ones look much better than the old ones. Perhaps they could create a new costume category for mature participants.
The other major thing that I learned is that the ostrich headdresses are only worn if it is not raining, so I imagine that there are many years where you don't even get to see them. That's sad for an item that costs so much and can only be worn one day a year.
So, k: are the gilles less alarming when they are unmasked? Do you add Napoleon's mask interdict to the long list of good things he did for France? How did they all come to choose that wall as their urinoir? And would that be mayonnaise drowning those frites?
In many ways the spirit of this event - the fraternity of men and boys - reminds me of the old style Gasparilla celebration when I was a child in Tampa. Many of the men in the community belonged to Ye Mystic Krewe of Gasparilla. It was/is a tradition in many families. Men dressed as pirates, "invaded" the city, shot blank rounds of ammunition in the air making lots of noise and threw empty shells, confetti, beads, and gold coins at the crowds during a parade that lasted several hours. Most men were unrecognizable due to their heavy makeup, including fake scars and facial hair. Dressing and makeup activities began at dawn, along with a special breakfast and the bidding goodbye to family members as the pirates boarded their ship for the "invasion" on the other side of Tampa Bay. There used to be a saying in Tampa that "heaven help you if you need a doctor on Gasparilla day, because they are all in the parade." Gasparilla continues today, but the celebration has evolved to include many other groups, including women. I imagine it is a much more "politically correct" type of event, though it's been at let twenty-five years since I've attended the parade.
Did you and/or your parents ever attend a Gasparilla parade, Kerouac?
Indeed, lola, the gilles are not threatening with naked faces. As for peeing, that was just an example because every single blank wall along the side streets was serving the same purpose. I myself sprang for the 0.40€ charge at the huge empty toilets in the tourist office. That is indeed mayonnaise on the frites, but in Belgium you have a choice of about 15 different sauces.
Htmb, no I never saw a Gasparilla parade -- just saw it mentioned on the TV news a few times over the years. They always mentioned "good clean family fun" which did not make it sound very appealing. Stock footage for that sort of thing is usually a few people in costume and then kids eating hotdogs.
I wonder what the child gilles eat and drink through the day , surely not champagne and oysters too?
Is it just me that thinks that even though the gilles masks are identical somehow they seem to have different expressions at times ? ( the close ups in #8 )
K2 - is there any significance to the ostrich feathers which have been dyed/ dipped in purple do you know ? I can imagine how expensive the headdresses must be having seen three small brown ones costed at £15 this weekend. I do think a couple of girls have snuck into Pierrot, peasant and harlequin outfits. ;D
Fascinating K2 thank you and such for posting your wonderful photos.
No, I think the variations of colour on the headdresses is a personal choice. I don't think that girls could sneak into the costumed groups since all of these kids know each other. However, having their hair completely covered and wearing costumes that seem pretty asexual really tends to show how gender differences don't really appear before puberty.
Meanwhile, I totally forgot that the Belgian Prime Minister also appeared in the crowd. Elio di Rupo is from nearby Mons, so it was only a 15 km trip for him to come to Binche for the festivities in his rubbish sack jacket.
I'm surprised Belgium has enough politicians left over from staffing the EU to have a PM, the crowd don't seem overjoyed at seeing him ;D Of course I am English, here the only Belgian of note is Tintin There, I forgot, there is also Herr Rumpy Pumpy, big white chief of the EU
Actually the crowd was chanting Elio! Elio! Elio! when they saw him -- otherwise I would not have spontaneously recognized him since there were no obvious bodyguard goons pushing people out of the way or anything.
I can hear the drums and the songs by looking at the pics. You caught the only black Gille in some pictures - which proves we are not racists. The only requirement is to be borne in Binche to become a Gille of Binche. Then you must not go elsewhere in costume. And you cannot be a woman (not racist, but sexist...).
I am pleased to report that this year the very first group of women paraded in Binche. Their group is called the "ladies Binchoises" and numbers 28 members. However, they paraded yesterday during a big storm which ripped their umbrellas apart, which apparently did not dampen their enthusiasm. Now that this has taken place for the first time, I'm sure there will be many more next year.
In any case, the women say that the carnival could not take place without them since they are the ones who dress the gilles for the day, since it is impossible to put on the costume and stuff with with straw by yourself.
Anyway, I was not there to see their group, but I was there today for Mardi Gras itself. Using my experience from the last time, I was able to park much closer to the huge closed off area than the previous time, when I had to walk a full two kilometres into town. This time I was no more than 300 metres from the centre. I still took my precautions because I am always afraid of not finding my way back.
I was parked on this street just a few steps behind where I was standing for this photo.
I noted the name of the street.
And these were the buildings on the corner of the main cross street leading to the centre.
This was the first café along the way and already techno music and the smell of beer exuded from it at 8:15 a.m.
And then I reached the zone closed to vehicles.
Once again I noted the name of the street, but I also knew that it was the N55 highway that I needed to take to return to France.