They bring to life the history and legends of their village, in costumes and with music.
Many towns and villages in the Charleroi Metropolitan Area celebrate Carnival. During the celebrations, their streets throb with the rousing sounds of drums and brass instruments. The Gilles parade through the streets. Costume-clad adults and children take to the parade. Follow the procession and gather around the bonfire, a symbolic moment aimed at banishing winter and welcoming in some sunnier days.
Here you will discover 3 festivities with a difference in the Charleroi Metropolitan Area. Recognised as masterpieces of oral and intangible heritage by the Wallonia-Brussels Federation, they have been taking place literally on our doorstep for over a century. These folklore celebrations are a time for villagers to come together around their shared history and strong local traditions.
Watch these folklore processions and, who knows, maybe you will spot a neighbour, a colleague, an acquaintance… full of the festive spirit and barely recognisable!
Head to Barbençon (Beaumont) for a bonfire like no other
This bonfire, which takes place on the Sunday after Mardi Gras, stands out for its historical re-enactment which takes place in the village, described as one of the most beautiful in Wallonia. On the day of the bonfire, two different camps face off: the “saqueux”, assisted by the “destoqueux”, whose aim is to pull the cart carrying the snowman to the fire, and the “astoqueux”, who try to thwart their efforts.
The “saqueux”, played by young men from the village, pull the cart along with a long metal chain. The “astoqueux” are husbands who try to stop the cart from moving forward by placing large wooden chocks (the “astoques”) underneath the wheels. Young bachelors, the “destoqueux”, then come along to help the young marksmen by pushing the chocks with the help of their wooden poles.
It goes without saying that the cart manages to get up the slope and reaches the place where the bonfire is set to take place which, as tradition has it, is lit by those who were last in the year to marry. The snowman is burned as a sign of purification and a fertile year ahead.
Feel free to join in the fancy-dress parade that follows the cart to the sound of a fanfare, or the dance of the seven leaps, a great jig, which is performed around the fire.
Attend the masked ball with the Climbias in Lodelinsart (Charleroi)
This magnificent ball, which follows Carnival festivities in Charleroi, stands out for its amazing fancy dress contest. Three categories (men – women – couples) are examined by the jury who announce the results at the end of the evening.
The evening has been organised by the Royal Climbia’s Club for over a century. You can recognise the members of the club, 13 in total, by their black and white suits, with black cape and red felt hat (fez) decorated with a black tassel.
The first ball was organised in 1893 as a way of prolonging the carnival festivities. The club’s name, Climbia, refers to a small set of wooden pincers used in glassmaking (the members also wear them as buttons). It symbolises this activity which saw Lodelinsart prosper in the previous century. The club aims to help people in need by organising festivities.
Take part in the final judgement of Johan Simon in Vierves-sur-Viroin (Viroinval)
If you fancy discovering a rural carnival, unique to our Ardennes, opt for the one held in Vierves-sur-Viroin, also one of the most beautiful villages of Wallonia. There, you will take part in the putting to death, not of a snowman, but of a bourgeois gentleman, Johan Simon, who was sentenced by the local Lord, Robert II.
As the 12th century story goes, Robert II was jealous of Johan Simon, who owned a great deal of fertile land. A cruel man, Lord Robert decides to imprison him in his castle. Johan Simon manages to escape but is quickly recaptured. The court then sentences him to be burned alive in the village square in front of all the inhabitants. A procession takes place before his arrival in the square.
Discover this unique procession and wolf down a delicious bacon omelette after the sentencing, just like they did at the time.
If you think that all carnivals are alike, think again. Carnival festivities are very different from one another, depending on the history of that particular village, and each is well worth a visit in its own right. Discover them all and soak up the particular atmosphere which brings the village together around these festivities.