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The Gille's Wife

Raised amid the carnival's overhwelming presence and atmosphere, Binche locals are devoted carnival participants. Whether they play the part of costumed characters, musicians or Gille's wives, their commitment to the festivities is natural and spontaneous.

Most of the time, the Gille's wife is overshadowed by the role of Binche's hero. Nevertheless, the Gille's wife is truly an essential companion in both private and public life. Long before the festivities begin, the Gille's wife is already active in taking care of the costumes as well as all kinds of planning, e.g. for the 'soumonces' (pre-carnival festivities) and the carnival itself. Neither a spectator nor a player, it is during the ceremony that the casual observer might think that the Gille's wife plays her most obvious and yet unappreciated part. Although the spectactors' and the Gilles' private lives are unaffected by the festivities, a Gille's wife's work has just begun. She still has to plenty to take care of at home, such as preparing dinners, looking after the costumes, redoing the children's make-up and, finally, washing the dishes.

Last but not least, her leading role in educating children means that the Gille's wife has a central and essential role in Binche society.

The Gille's wife's mission is seen as crucial, as she is the one that raises children in Binche traditions. She teaches them the dances, what is permitted and what isn't during the carnival, the ceremonial dressing of the Gille and - most of all - a love for Binche's traditions and carnival rituals. Her goal is to encourage unconditional, natural partipication in Binche's children.


(Christel Deliège)

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