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The Gille

Around one thousand Gilles can be seen on Shrove Tuesday in Binche. The Gille’s costume can only be worn on this special day.  It is also forbidden to leave the city with it, coining the saying 'a Gille never leaves'.

Only men from Binche families or citizens living in Binche for at least 5 years can wear this costume. There are strict rules that control participation in the carnival. A folklore defense association has been created to protect and promote Binche's traditions.

The Gille costume consists of a tunic and jute pants decorated with 150 motifs (stars, lions and crowns) in a fine black felt. When the Gille dons his costume, the tunic is filled with straw at the front and a small bell is added at the back.

He also wears a red and yellow woolen belt finished with a cloth called an 'apertintaille' and copper bells. A collar with pleated lace ribbon or golden fringe is attached around the neck.

On his head, his hair is covered by a 'barette', a white cotton hat, and a scarf that ties around the neck (pleated squares worn around the neck, laced on the head to secure the hat). During the afternoon procession on Shrove Tuesday, the Gille wears his ostrich feather hat. The Gille does not own his costume or hat. He rents these from the 'louageur', who specialises in costumes, hat making and rentals. Binche has three, all of which come from the same family. On his feet, each Gille wears wooden clogs.

On the morning of Shrove Tuesday, the Gille wears his famous mask to enter the town hall. These are all made at the Pourbaix workshop. They are made of wax and decorated with green glasses, a moustache, a tiny goatee and mutton chops. The city of Binche registered the design with the European patent office in 1985, so has exclusive rights: these masks can only be worn in Binche and may only be sold to Gilles from the carnival society.

On Shrove Tuesday morning and during the 'soumonces' with drums, the Gille holds a 'ramon' in his hand. Formerly a broom, the 'ramon' is made of dried willow sticks held together with rattan. The Gille uses the 'ramon' and his basket to create a rhythm (the baskets are used on the afternoon of Shrove Tuesday).

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