If you ask someone about Carnival, they immediatly associate it with a huge colourful parade with half naked exotic dansers and lot's of music.
Forget it... those are just parades.
The real Carnival is a very very old tradition that goes back to the Roman times. It starts from Saturday and goes till Tuesday. Some sources say that the word Carnival goes back to the Latin words "carne vale" (goodbye to meat) or "carne levare" (finishing of the meat). Shrove Tuesday (Fat Tuesday) is also known as Mardi Gras. It is the date that announces the end of Winter and the announcement of Spring. It is the last day before the fasting starts and every one is finishing up the Winter proviand.
It might find its origin in old Germanic/Roman and Celtic Spring or vertility festivals that later on was taken over by the catholic calender. It are the days when you could criticise the government, the church, when you could joke about things happened and all without being punished for it. It was the day you were allowed to get drunk and be some one else, hiding behind a mask you might switch even wifes for a day `-)
Ofcourse the one targetted by the jokes were not really happy to be the topic of laughter, and tried several times to censure the carnival, but in vain. Let's hope this will still be the same in this time when some people are not understanding the meaning of it all.
Aalst, a little city in Eastern Flanders still holds very much on this tradition.
Every one was a bit concerned what impact the rage about the Danish cartoonist would be but I think they handled it very well.
Aalst also has a tradition of making their own lyrics on some known melodies and in the real dialect, they sing it and dance on it during the parade.
To a foreigner it is not always obvious what it is about so as far as I can make out the topic (or think I can) I will add some small explication with the pictures.
At group 52 I was too froozen and went inside a pub for a warm soup. Sorry I missed taking the 18 last ones.
At a certain moment those with the huge red hats and black coats were standing with about 8 in front of us and not willing to move aside for at least 30 a 40 minutes, so I missed most of the groups there too not able to watch. I don't understand why people should be so ignorant. It is really a shame. They looked funny in the beginning but were a real annoyance to all the people they blocked the view, including little children. It is not that we didn't tried to ask them if they could move a little... they just refused.
After the parade we all head home by train and lucky we had some reservated places with our tickets, however some other travelers thought different about it and were occupying our seats or reacted very angry when we politely told them those seats were reserved for us. There were papers on the windows so they could read it from outside and inside the wagon. Some travelers even tried to tear the papers off the window to cheat... people uh!
Anyhow after an hour traveling we got home back in Antwerp and with those still having time and being thirsty, we went into the Poan Royal where they were so kind to redecorate their interior so we could all sit together for a last drink.
It was fun to have seen you :)
Till next time?
p.s. if you want to look at the pictures, you can reduce this text part by clicking on the little arrow up (where you also see "thumbnails")
Interesting link (choose your language): http://www.vastenavond.be/