BINCHE, Belgium – A small town in the French-speaking Walloon region of Belgium was on Tuesday filled with hundreds of revelers sporting identical clown-like costumes for the third and final day of its historic carnival celebrations.
Hailed a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible History of Humanity by UNESCO, the celebration at Binche, which is believed to date back to the 14th century, sees hundreds of people dressing up as performers known as “Gilles.”
Participants cover their faces with identical wax masks with thin mustaches, a goatee and what look like spectacles and sport the same outrageous brown, red, yellow and black outfits covered in stripes and cut-outs of heraldry-style lions.
The ensemble is completed with a small bell, a ruffled lace collar and a strip of bandages wrapped around their heads and necks that makes wearers look like they are suffering from a particularly nasty toothache.
Epa images showed the Gilles lining the Grand Place of Binche on a sunny day, a rarity in Belgium, and waving bundles of sticks that are said to ward off demons.
The masks are a particularly treasured item this year as in October 2017, the workshop where they are made burned down and more than 400 were destroyed by the flames.
The artisan in charge of making the costumes, Jean-Luc Pourbaix, made a bet that he would be able to have them all completed before Carnival kicked off again in 2018 and clearly won, as epa images showed the town filled with the identical faces.
The festivities start with drums and fifes and by 7:00 am local time, the Gilles have gathered in the main square to eat oysters and drink champagne.
Later, they are to don hats topped with huge ostrich plumes and distribute oranges among the locals, often by throwing them, which has some years caused damages.
Only men who are from Binche or who have resided there for more than five years are permitted to wear the costume, and they are only allowed to do so during carnival and within the town’s limits.