Jingling Oranges


Mardi Gras usually conjures up thoughts of heavy partying and debauchery, but this year, I find a whole new way of celebrating in Binche, Belgium. With a population of about 33,000, Binche is a Walloon municipality most famous for its carnival, listed in 2003 by UNESCO as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in the world.


From Fat Sunday through Fat Tuesday, tens if not hundreds of thousands of people around the world gather in this town to celebrate, and all partying must cease by sunrise of Ash Wednesday.


There are several types of costumes prominent during the festivities…






with the most famous being those worn by the Gilles:


Their harlequin costumes are adorned with national symbols and bells, stuffed with straws, complemented with wooden sabots, and finished off with heavy hats of ostrich plumes (which are not worn until the parade). I must have taken 500 pictures of their hats. I’m obsessed and wonder how to score a hat for my own collection.


During the parade they throw blood oranges to the crowds. When they walk down the street, you can hear them jingling and stomping their feet to the sounds of the accompanying drummer.



I don’t know about you, but after encountering my first group of Gilles, I can’t stop dancing with them.


There are about 1,000 living Gilles, all males, who range in age from 3 and up.


I will blog more about my day at Binche (the actual experience of being here for the carnaval) in tomorrow’s post as I’m all pooped out for now. I’ve been cramming too much stuff into my last week here in Europe and feel exhausted. But I’m thrilled to have been in Binche for this very special experience. All told, I catch 3 oranges and am handed 9 others along the parade route.  I’m jingling oranges in my bulging messenger bag and coat pockets to the beat of the clomping Gilles and can’t be happier. I hear during the carnaval at Dunkerque the crowd is tossed plastic lobsters which can be exchanged for live ones unless you want to keep the plastic one as a souvenir. Can’t wait to get there next time around!


  1. beatrice

    magnifique ton reportage…le son est super!!!vive les gilles!!!vive le carnaval !!! vive la fete!!!

  2. peachbaby

    Larkie, love your pics here. I wish I was there! The outfits are so vibrant. Your enthusiasm about the different places is infectious. It always cheers me up, especially when I’m having a tough day such as today 🙂
    BTW, missed your ODJs at tPF!

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