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Mardi Gras Belgian Style

March 1st, 2011 Comments off

When we think of Mardi Gras New Orleans comes to mind, but Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the world. One town in Belgium has been celebrating Mardi Gras annually since the 14th century.

From Wikipedia:

The carnival of Binche is an event that takes place each year in the Belgian town of Binche during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The carnival is the most known of several others that take place in Belgium at the same time and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity listed by UNESCO. Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century.

Events related to the carnival begin up to seven weeks prior to the primary celebrations. Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing, and marching. Large numbers of Binche’s inhabitants spend the Sunday directly prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.

The centrepiece of the carnival’s proceedings are clown-like performers known as Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on "Shrove" Tuesday, the Gilles are characterised by their vibrant dress, wax masks and wooden footwear. They number up to 1,000 at any given time, range in age from 3 to 60, and are customarily male. The honour of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is to be aspired to by local men. From dawn on the morning of the carnival’s final day, Gilles appear in the centre of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward evil spirits away with sticks. Later, during the day, they don large hats adorned with ostrich plumes, which can cost upwards of $300 US dollars to rent, and march through the town with baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd gathered to view the procession. The vigour and longevity of the orange throwing event has in past caused damage to property – some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this.

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The Chronicles of Ronse – Part VII

September 14th, 2009 Comments off

This is a continuation of a translation from Recherches historiques sur la ville de Renaix by G.L.B. (Publisher A.-I. Van der Schelden, 1856 Original from Ghent University).

From the beginning of the year 1796, the Ancien Régime was suppressed. The city was made into a municipality and its members were forced to perform their duties. As the revolution progressed, little was left in the parish churches and on 12 November of the following year the churches were closed!

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The Chronicles of Ronse – Part VI

September 13th, 2009 Comments off

This is a continuation of a translation from Recherches historiques sur la ville de Renaix by G.L.B. (Publisher A.-I. Van der Schelden, 1856 Original from Ghent University).

Note, in passing, that the small town of Ronse, so much proven at different times, knew, by the tireless activity of its inhabitants, by its industry and its trade to be reborn every time from the ashes and resume his rank among the cities! Its inhabitants taking advantage of the times of peace under the Archdukes were up and running in happier days during the century and a half that followed the days of mourning, we have described. Archduchess Marie-Thérèse, known for her virtues and high wisdom, had barely closed her eyes (29 November 1780) when the horizon darkened as her son Joseph II wanted to change everything. Eventually all was downhill.

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The Chronicles of Ronse – Part V

September 12th, 2009 Comments off

This is a continuation of a translation from Recherches historiques sur la ville de Renaix  by G.L.B.  (Publisher A.-I. Van der Schelden, 1856 Original from Ghent University). 

In 1569, the continuing problems caused by the iconoclasts and Calvinists (de geuzen) and new taxes imposed by the Duke of Alba, many of our weavers and our foulons left the city to go in foreign countries especially in England.

The history of these times tells us that the excesses of the iconoclasts were unfortunately only too real and troubles of Flanders caused by their heretical preachers was followed by the plundering of our churches. These fanatics, who is were first held hidden in the woods surrounding Ronse invaded the city on 19 August 1566 and destroyed the altars and the statues of saints in the Collegiate Church of Saint Hermès. Yet the magistrates of Ronse defended the city and  the sectarians were forced to give up the books, the chalices and ornaments of the  canons that they had seized.

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