Carnival is a celebration that occurs in February and marks the start of Lent, which leads up to Easter. February 12th was Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), it is the day before Ash Wednesday and also the last day of eating fattier food. Therefore, it is the day most people eat lots and of lots of crêpes (crêpes are the French version of pancakes and are bigger and thinner than pancakes). Moreover, Carnival usually involves a parade and people get dressed up in costumes. In Europe, most people celebrate and get dressed up for carnival and not for Halloween. The most famous carnivals are in Rio de Janeiro and in Venice, where you can see beautiful costumes and masks.
In Belgium, there is a huge celebration of Mardi Gras in a city called Binche. This city is only about 90 min with the train from Brussels and thus I decided with a couple of friends to go see this famous carnival. We arrived there at 3 p.m. right on time for the parade. There were a lot of people on the streets and small children were dressed up and were throwing confetti everywhere. My friend was dressed up as a panda and she was so kind to borrow me her Mickey Mouse ears. Unfortunately, when we arrived the headband with the ears fell off and thus I was a mouse with a black nose and whiskers but no ears. I was disappointed to see that most people dressed up were people who participated in the parade and small children. During the parade you could hear the sound of drums and see colorful costumes and beautiful big hats made of ostrich feathers. There were 4 kinds of costumes: the Arlequins, the Pierrots, the Gilles, the Peasants (see pictures below).
As the streets became more and more crowded small children in the parade started to throw all the oranges at the public. When a friend of mine caught an orange, that’s when we realized that these were not oranges but actually blood oranges. One of the locals explained to us that the oranges represent the sun and that the costumes, and the bells on the clothes are symbols that are supposed to chase away the winter.
At first it was really funny and great to catch the oranges, some people even brought bags to collect them. However, after a while they were thrown in all directions and they were a little dangerous and as a result some people got hurt and some shops and restaurants were closed because they put a net on the windows and doors so they wouldn’t break the glass. Even though when we left the city, we almost felt like we survived a blood orange war, it was a great and unusual experience in which we got free oranges.
If you want to read more about this very special festivity see the Carnaval de Binche website!