Carnival of Aalst - Travel Eat Enjoy Repeat

Being born and raised in Aalst (Belgium), I really have to promote its ´world-famous’ carnival. Although not as famous as the carnival in Rio or Venice it still attracts around 90000 people to the parade on Sunday each year. If you are in Belgium around that time, you must come and celebrate carnival in Aalst. It is a special and fantastic experience.

Aalst carnival

Carnival is a Christian festival celebrated in the last 3 days before Ash Wednesday. Traditionally, the festival starts on Sunday and ends on Shrove Tuesday. At midnight, the Lent start for 40 days until Easter. So carnival is really the last chance to eat and drink what you want before Lent starts. Because the celebration of Easter occurs on a different date each year (depending on the first full moon in Spring), the celebration of carnival also occurs on different dates each year. In 2018, Aalst carnival is on Sunday, February 11th.

Since 2010, the carnival of Aalst is on the UNESCO list of Intangible Cultural Heritage. It is a street carnival where on Sunday around 70 local carnival groups participate in a parade where they address local, national, and international topics.

Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival

The Sunday parade

On Sunday, the parade starts at 1pm and lasts for about 5 hours. The groups make the floats themselves with a cartoon style is something typical of Aalst. Furthermore, Almost all of the pieces of the floats like the heads are carved in 1 piece out of Styrofoam. Smaller ‘loose groups’ can also participate while addressing more recent themes with more satire. Of course, all the texts are in the local dialect.

Aalst carnival

Aalst carnival

The costumes and makeup are always on point every year.

Aalst carnival

Aalst carnival

Children grow up with carnival and often also participate in the parade.

Aalst carnival

Aalst carnival

Aalst carnival is a street carnival

When the last float has left the Great Market, the city center is the place to be for 3 days of celebrating, drinking, and eating. Aalst is really a street carnival, so at the Grand Market, there are old firetrucks with speakers that play (carnival) music all night. Of course, you can enjoy the celebrations in one of the many pubs. But forget to find a nice place to sit quietly during those 3 days :).

Aalst station

Photo by Andrea Kirkby

Oilsjt Vastelauved 2008

Photo by bram_souffreau

Typical folklore during Aalst carnival

On Monday, the Gilles of Aalst come out to control the winter spirits with their typical Broom Dance while throwing oranges. Their hats are made with ostrich feathers.

Aalst carnival

On Tuesday, the ‘Voil-Jeanetten’ or Dirty Sissies parade through the streets of the city center. Men are dressed up as women with fake breasts, a fur coat, stroller, broken umbrella, and a herring in a birdcage. The tradition of this lies in the history of Aalst. Since the lower class didn’t have the money to buy or make a carnival costume, they took the old clothes of their wives.

Aalst carnival

Aalst carnival

Pushing the pram

Photo by Andrea Kirkby

In the evening, the burning of the puppet marks the end of the carnival. However, this doesn’t mean that the party stops.

Aalst carnaval

More pictures of Aalst carnival

Here are some pictures of the previous years. But it is highly recommended to see it all in person.

Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival
Aalst carnival

 

Did you go to Aalst carnival yet?

 

Aalst carnival

 

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