The Carnival of Binche dates back to the 14th century and is listed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The carnival transforms the Belgian town of Binche from Sunday to Ash Wednesday, but the most important day is Shrove Tuesday.
The biggest attraction of the carnival's parades is costumed performers known as Gilles. Clown-like figures are dressed in clogs and suits embroidered with heraldic symbols. They also wear large hats with ostrich plumes. About 1,000 Gilles in their bright costumes, wax masks, and wooden logs march through the streets from Tuesday morning to the grand finale of the carnival. In the afternoon, they carry baskets of oranges, throwing them into the crowd. The oranges are supposed to bring good luck.
There are a few theories regarding the origin if Gilles' unusual appearance. According to one of them, Queen Mary of Hungary, who ruled the city in the 16th century brought Incas to perform at the carnival, and their flamboyant costumes have become a tradition ever since.
Binche residents prepare for the Carnival for the whole year, since all events require coordination and rehearsals. It's considered to be a great honour for local men to be dressed as Gilles. There are many carnival societies and non-profits that are involved in the event. Carnival of Binche displays the best in the city, bringing lots of music, dancing and delicious foods to the streets.