We are not going to tell you about the Venice carnival or the Rio carnival, but rather about the most famous carnival in Belgium.
So, if you don’t know what “PLVS OVLTRE” means, it’s time for you to read our special article on the “Carnival of Binche” in 2021!
OK, fine, we just made up the title of “capital of the Belgian carnival” 🙃 Why? Because the Binche carnival is one of the oldest carnivals in the country, but also one of the most authentic!
Although it is difficult to know its exact origins, we know that the Binche carnival dates back to the Middle Ages and that it is “one of the oldest manifestations of this type still alive in Europe” (and this is what the UN says)!
Moreover, the Binche carnival has been recognised as a masterpiece of “Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity” by UNESCO since 2003 (very proud)! 🏆
However, the one in Binche remains a must, as it is governed by rules and rigorous organisation! Sit down, you won’t believe your eyes…
What makes the Binche carnival so unique is above all the involvement of all the Binchoises and Binchois!
Several months in advance, the city gets ready for the carnival: the pre-carnival festivities begin with rehearsals and “soumonces”… six weeks before the carnival days! It is a very serious and well-planned event so people in Binche don’t joke about carnival 📆
Then, come the “jours gras” of Carnival in February: from Sunday to Tuesday, Binche is filled with the sounds of the 26 musical tunes 🎶 dedicated to the carnival.
For three days, the festivities follow one another: parades, processions,”rondeaux” and even the “flaming” of the Grand’Place (don’t worry, we’re talking about fireworks here)! 🎆
But when we think of the carnival of Binche, we think especially of the famous Gilles (not your uncle Gilles)! 🤩
The Gilles de Binche are very important characters who only come on Mardi Gras day: they are nearly 1,000 to parade through the streets following a real procession from morning to evening.
So, what does a Gille de Binche look like? Take a man from Binche and dress him in a suit consisting of a blouse and trousers decorated with 150 patterns (stars, lions and crowns) in black, yellow and red felt 🇧🇪
Add to your Gille a white mask with green glasses for him to go to the Town Hall, then put his imposing ostrich feathered hat on his head for the big procession where he gives many blood oranges to people 🍊
It sounds simple as it is, but each costume is meticulously designed by “louageurs” and the Gilles are carefully dressed on D-Day.
Except that, this year…
Last November, the gilles societies decided not to organise a carnival in 2021 in order to preserve everyone’s health, but also to respect the traditions of the Binche carnival.
“We don’t want a Carnival sold out” as Alain Pourbaix, the President of the Association for the Defence of Folklore (ADF) explained (well, he said in French “”Nous ne voulons pas d’un Carnaval soldé“, sounds better ).
It was a difficult decision when we know that the carnival had not been interrupted since… the Second World War! 😢
However, the Binchoises and Binchois are mobilising and solidarity actions are flourishing everywhere to support the sectors affected by the cancellation of the carnival.
The ADF has initiated a fundraising in support of the craftsmen who live from the carnival. Flags and stickers, but also face masks with the Binche motto “Plus Oultre” are on sale 😷.
Let’s lift the mystery on the formula “PLVS OVLTRE”: this is Binche’s motto and it means “always further”. It dates back to the time when Belgium was under Spanish domination (olé).
It is also the motto of Emperor Charles V, whose sister Mary of Hungary lived in Binche in the mid-16th century. Mystery solved! 😉
Other actions exist to support the Binche carnival. And while waiting for its return in 2022, here are our tips for (re)experiencing the carnival safely.
This is an initiative that we really liked. Have you heard about Folklobox? The concept is simple: celebrate at home with a special carnival box 📦 with oranges, mimosa and lots of other elements of Binche folklore. There’s even a miniature Gille in the box.
We love the idea (plus, part of the profits go to the ADF support fund)!
What are we talking about? Follow the carnival “timeline” in Augmented Reality (AR) and experience the Mardi Gras morning rondeau in Virtual Reality (VR) 😎
The highlight of the show is the museum’s brand new film to immerse yourself in the carnival atmosphere.
As we said in our previous article, Virtual Reality is a real opportunity to boost the tourism sector 🚀
Obviously, this will not replace the real Binche carnival. But it is nevertheless a nice experience to test as soon as possible, while waiting for the return of the Gilles next year!
See the Museum’s website for more information.
If you want to immerse yourself in the Carnival of Binche (edition 2020), we advise you to watch the video of our famous Belgian humorist GuiHome.
You don’t know who GuiHome is? No excuse, check out his video at the Binche Carnival! (in French)👇
Want to know more? Here is our list of super top secret sources of information 🤫
Imagine Belgium is only open on reservation via the email address [email protected].
Closed during weekends.
See you soon!
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