Many carnivals take place in Flanders: Bailleul, Bergues, Cassel, Steenvoorde, etc. There are too many to mention! Come and enjoy an exceptional moment with some Giants!
Alive with colours and music, carnivals are the warmest of festivals!
From January to March, the cities take on a curious appearance…
Showers of confetti, diabolical masks, colourful costumes and lively music warm up the atmosphere! The processions try to outdo each other in terms of originality, parading in the streets to the rhythm of brass and wind instruments and the cheering crowds. Here, the festival is in full swing in all simplicity. And participants and spectators from all generations come together to share the fun.
In mediaeval times, during the month of the Trinity, ‘festivals of madmen’ lasting two days were held in Northern France. A sometimes excessive release – channelled, however, by the clergy – eventually got mixed in with it: the ‘cavalcade’. This cavalcade was led by the city’s official fool, surrounded by members of the clergy, bawling out and imitating the bray of a donkey. Costumes were worn for the occasion and the bourgeois town councillors threw sugared almonds and various treats to the people, and tapped barrels of wine for free consumption.
This festival always took place before Lent, which was also the period during which people could eat meat, referred to as ‘l’aval à la carne’ (meat allowed), which became ‘carnaval’ (carnival).
– Bailleul and Cassel Carnival: weekend before Shrove Tuesday
– Bergues Carnival: Sunday after the third Thursday in Lent
– Godewaersvelde Carnival: second weekend of February
– Esquelbecq Carnival: in February
– Bollezeele Carnival: second last Sunday of March
– Hazebrouck and Wormhout Carnival: in March
– Pitgam Carnival: Palm Sunday
Steenvoorde: last weekend of April
Cassel: Easter Monday (listed as intangible world heritage by UNESCO)
Other carnivals in Killem, Rexpoëde, Uxem, Warhem, etc.
The giants are often the historical testimony of a victorious battle or emblematic figures created by the inhabitants. They are the heart and soul of Flemish processions and festivals.
Today there are more than 50 giants in the Pays de Flandre, made out of pasteboard, painted with bright colours and with ruddy faces. They have a wicker structure and are usually carried (the rest are towed or are seated).
Heroes of the people or representatives of everyday life, they sometimes bear the anonymous name ‘Reuze’ (giant in Flemish) or more symbolically, the Roi des Mitrons and his family in Wormhout, Madame Bintje in Hondschoote, Gargantua in Bailleul, the pedlar Tisje-Tasje in Hazebrouck, Henri le douanier in Godewaersvelde, Totor in Steenwerck, and Reuze Papa and Reuze Maman in Cassel (due to its characteristic nature and processional giants, the Cassel Carnival was recognised by UNESCO as a masterpiece of intangible world heritage)
– Historical procession in Hazebrouck: in March
– Parade of giants in Bollezeele: first Tuesday of July
– Annual parade of regional giants in Hazebrouck: in August
– Cavalcade of the giants of the marsh in Nieurlet: last Sunday of August
– European Festival of Giants in Steenvoorde every 6 years (the next one: last weekend of April 2017)