Spring is on the march

Spring is on the march

The traditional march of the Gilles - messengers of spring - took place on February 13 in the city of Binche in the French-speaking region of Belgium - Wallonia.

The procession of merry mummers has been held here annually for several centuries on the "fat Tuesday" before Lent.

The Gilles March marks the culmination of Belgium's most famous folklore carnival, which lasts three days and has been listed by UNESCO in the Book of Cultural Heritage of Mankind since 2003.

The procession of mummers, in whose colorful robes only the indigenous people of Binche have the right to dress, is notable for the fact that during the march they throw oranges at crowds of tourists who come to see this outlandish spectacle from all over Europe.

According to legend, the one who catches the orange fruit can consider himself lucky. However, these are mostly children sitting on the shoulders of their parents. Everyone else has to literally catch a moment of luck. The main thing is not to yawn, because an orange thrown by Gilles can land in your head at any moment. Some mummers are throwing fruits more than diligently.

But it is strictly forbidden to throw oranges into the Gilles, the persons accompanying the carnival procession are vigilantly watching this. This is understandable, because it costs a lot to sew a Gilles suit.

In a colorful caftan stuffed with straw, Gilles looks like a kind of pot-bellied fellow from the front, who is "decorated" with two humps from the back. The kings of the holiday have wooden clogs on their feet, so they march to the beat of drums rather slowly, while making a characteristic sound of a shoe hitting the pavement.

Preparations for the march began long before it began. Starting at four o'clock in the morning, they gather in groups, passing by the houses of other marchers, whose relatives traditionally treat Gilles with champagne, the official drink of the carnival king. After the general morning gathering, the Giles are given a breakfast of oysters with the same sparkling wine.

Starting at 10 o'clock, mummers put identical wax masks on their faces, personifying their unity.

Gilles's face consists of small round black glasses, red sideburns and a mustache with curls, as well as a long hooked nose and thin lips. The Inhabitants will take off their masks only after the authorities of Binche accept them with honors at the end of the carnival procession.

The Gilles march itself begins in the afternoon. Along the main city street, the messengers of spring, dancing and scattering oranges, slowly move towards the historic Binche square, where the carnival will end after the mummers will dance around it.

The procession is not easy for everyone, because throughout the entire journey, the Inhabitants carry on their heads giant hats with a total weight of about three kilograms each. Therefore, the carnival participants are accompanied by relatives, whom the mummers periodically trust to carry their white top hat decorated with ostrich feathers.

On the first two days of the carnival in Binche, which is accompanied by an abundant consumption of strong local beer for the Residents themselves, as well as guests and residents of the city, a parade of carnival costumes, a celebration of youth and culinary craftsmen is traditionally held.

The procession of merry mummers annually gathers several hundred thousand tourists. For a trip to Binche, located an hour's drive from Brussels, direct train routes are organized from different parts of Belgium on the days of the festival.