Carnival of Binche

Background of informant:

My informant YF is an international student from Brussels, Belgium. He spent the first two years of high school in Los Angeles, and the last year back in Brussels. He lived in Wallonia in Belgium, which is the French-speaking region that accounts more than a half of the country.


Main piece:

YF: “We have the Carnival of the year around spring break. Every region in Belgium will have different character for the carnival. Each one has its story, its name. ”

YF: “The most memorable one that I went to is the Carnival of Binche. The most famous character in the carnival is called “Gilles de Binche”, directed translated as “Gilles from Binche”. This is the name of the character of the Carnival. So depend on the different city the Carnival is taking place, there will be different character, also different names. Gilles de Binche are only done by guys. They have white outfit, and orange jacket that has patterns of roasters on it, because roaster is the Coat of arms for Wallonia. And on the jacket there are also lines in black, yellow and red since those are the colors on Belgium flag. And also straw on the edge of their jacket. On their head, they have a huge hat with feathers, and traditionally, they also wear mask on their face made of wax. They walk on the street at the days of Carnival, and each of them carries a basket with blood oranges inside. They throw the oranges to the crowd and people will try to catch them. ”

SH: Why do they throw oranges?

YF: “Oh, so blood oranges are seen as gift given by the Gilles and they carry good luck.”

YF: “The Gilles also wear wooden shoes. The special thing about Gilles de Binche is that they are the only group of Gilles that stay in the city, so they can only stay in Binche, while others can go around and participate the parade in other cities.

“At night, we have ‘feu de bengale’, which means ‘fire from Bengol’ for people to dance around. It’s about the size of a human. Two meters high. Basically, when you’re a kid, base on which city in Belgium you’re from, you’re assigned to one character. It’s really old-fashioned, that based on the town you were born, you have the character that you can become when you’re older, and then you choose to take part into the culture and go into the circle of the character.

“So every early, like 6 am in the Carnival day, participants will go to people’s family to party with them. So you’ll have numerous cups of champion in each house you went to at the end of the day. And I did practice this!!”


Context of the performance:

This is a part of the interview I had with my informant YF.


My thoughts about the piece:

Though Belgium is a small country, the differentiation within the country is huge and obvious. Not only do people from different regions speak different languages (three main languages: French, Dutch and Germany), the Carnival are different and the characters for each Carnival are different.