This original museum is unique in the world! The Museum of the Mask examines the social significance that masks play in cultures throughout the world. One theme of the museum is ethnographic, exploring the distinguishing features of other societies through presentation of objects of popular culture. A second theme of the museum is to unify all cultures and explore how masks play similar functions in all. A third theme is to explore the universal social phenomenon of the carnival, where elaborate masks play a central role, no matter which culture the carnival belongs to.
Tours in english, flemish, german, italian, spanish, russian and bolgar are available on request!
The Carnival is really great but to arrive there, better come by train or by bus.
You can find the schedule
For the train, at http://www.b-rail.be/E/
For the bus, at http://www.tec-wl.be/ but this site is only in French and not yet updated...
If you prefer to come by car, you are warned, either you are lucky or be ready for a small walk! Parking is a real nightmare. The city centre is closed to car traffic and you have to find somehow a parking place in the surroundings.
People are parking everywhere possible but still pay attention to the traffic signs, don't park *anywhere*! Police is towing car away even during the carnival !!
When you are not familiar with the city, the most difficult part of this exercise is to evaluate how long you will have to walk...
OBviously, the sooner you arrive, the better (an alternative could be lunch time, when the locals go back home for lunch).
They are the major players of the carnival. To be a Gille, you have to be a Belgian man from Binche.
Their costume consists of several pieces: the shirt, the pants, the apertintaille, the grelot, socks, clogs, the hat with wondeful austrich plums, the mask, the ramon and the basket.
A "Gille de Binche" can't be seen out of his city wearing his traditional costume. There are also Gilles from other cities. They are wearing a similar costume but don't have such a rule. I remember having seen some Gilles during the summer in south of France, for sure, they were not from Binche!!
I'm afraid I haven't been able to go to Mardi Gras this year, I only have pictures of the Dimanche gras. To see how the traditional costume looks like, have a look to the website below.
Binche is mostly known for the Gilles throwing oranges during the "Mardi Gras" parade.
However the story start many weeks before that. The previous sundays, the Gilles start repeating during the "Soumonces". They are dancing with their clogs but not wearing their tradional costume yet (or they could wear their costume of the previous dimanche gras).
"Les trouilles de Nouilles" happen the monday before the carnival week, everyone crawls the pubs of the city wearing a mask and trying to make fun of the people who don't wear one...
Finally the official carnival time start on Sunday, "le Dimanche gras", the Gilles start appearing early in the morning, they still don't wear their traditional costumes. Instead, each group of Gilles (called "une societe") wear a costume based on a given theme.
There is already a big parade in the afternoon.
The monday is dedicated to the young.
Finally arrives "Mardi Gras"!! This will be a long day, the Gilles start gathering round 5am (!!), this is called "le ramassage". They are now wearing their traditional costume and go from one house to the other to pick the other Gilles from their group.
They are already dancing in the street during the morning but the major event is definitely the big parade of the afternoon.
The Gilles are then throwing oranges to the crowd, this should be considred as a gift and don't throw an orange back, this would be considered as a major offense (you are refusing their gift).