photo: Richard Harris
Next week is the culmination of carnival season. Most Americans are familiar with the celebrations in New Orleans, Rio de Janeiro and Venice on Fat Saturday through Fat Tuesday, but probably aren't familiar with the very rich carnival tradition in Belgium. The most famous of the Belgian carnival celebrations is the one in Binche. Supposedly the word "binge" has its source in the name Binche. Whether that etymology is correct, you can take it from me that the atmosphere in Binche during carnival is most certainly one of complete abandon. The continuous cadenced drumming, the orange tossing, the endless conga line-like rondeaux, and the free-flowing Belgian beer see to that. People think of the wild atmosphere of carnivals as a southern or tropical affair, but actually, surviving the third month of Winter coupled with the need to let it all out before Lent created a strong and frenetic northern European tradition. Belgium has preserved and enlarged this living tradition and a number of the carnivals are part of UNESCO's world heritage. Binche is only one of the well over one hundred carnivals that one can attend in Belgium, not to mention the dozens of Laetare which take place at midLent.
The fun begins tomorrow.
Click here for more info and pictures of the various carnivals in Wallonia and Brussels
Click here for info and pictures for the carnivals in Flanders