Festival of the Giants

Giants, Festival of the (Belgium)

Fourth weekend in August
In many French and Belgian towns, people carry giants—towering figures representing various biblical, historical, or legendary characters—through the streets in their religious and other festival processions.
One of Belgium's more distinctive and colorful pageants, held in Ath (or Aat), highlights the "Marriage of the Giants." The origins of the festival are a little vague, but the giants—Goliath and his bride, strong-man Samson, a warrior named Ambiorix, and several others—are supposed to date from the mid-15th-century Procession of St. Julien. Other figures were added by local guilds over the years, and today the procession is known as Les VÉpres de Gouyasse, because it portrays the marriage of Goliath.
The giants, 20-foot-tall figures made of wicker and cloth, are paraded through the streets; men are underneath the figures and see where they're going by peering out through peepholes. Goliath wears a helmet and breastplate, his bride has orange blossoms in her hair, Samson carries a broken column. After they lumber through the streets to the Church of St. Julien, Goliath and his lady are married.
Along with the giants is the legendary horse, Bayard, purported to be able to change size according to the size of his rider. The medieval story has it that four brothers, the sons of Aymon, were carried by the mighty steed Bayard as they fled the wrath of Charlemagne. The horse and its riders were tracked to a high cliff above the Meuse River; the horse gave a tremendous leap and carried the riders to safety across the river. The replica of the horse weighs about three-quarters of a ton and is propelled by a dozen men while four boys ride on its back.
Besides the procession, the day is marked by the shooting of muskets, revelry, eating, drinking, and dancing.
CONTACTS:
Belgian Tourist Office
220 E. 42nd St., Ste. 3402
New York, NY 10017
212-758-8130; fax: 212-355-7675
www.visitbelgium.com
SOURCES:
FestWestEur-1958, p. 16

Celebrated in: Belgium


Giants, Festival of the (Fête des Géants)
Begins on the Sunday following July 5
The huge figures that are often carried in procession through the streets of France used to be made of wicker supported by a light wooden frame, but their modern counterparts are usually made of plastic.
For three days and nights during the FÉte des GÉants in Douai, France, the figure of Gayant is carried through the streets to the accompaniment of drums and church bells. About 25 feet tall and wearing a military uniform, Gayant is followed by his wife, Marie, who is 20 feet high and always dressed in the latest fashion. Then come their three children—Jacquot, Fillion, and the baby, Binbin. The giants leave their home on Rue de Lambres and go to the town hall to salute the mayor, after which they continue on to the Place D'Armes and take part in the carnival festivities.
Another famous procession of the giants takes place in the city of Lille on Whit-Monday, when more than 100 of these fabulous figures are carried through the streets of the town.
CONTACTS:
Douai Tourist Office
70 Place d'Armes
Douai, 59500 France
33-3-2788-2679; fax: 33-3-2799-3878
www.ville-douai.fr
SOURCES:
BkFestHolWrld-1970, p. 65
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