The Gilles are the oldest and principal participants in the Carnival of Binche in Belgium. They go out on Shrove Tuesday from 4AM until late hours and dance to traditional songs. Other cities, such as Nivelles, have a tradition of Gilles at carnival, but the Carnival of Binche is by far the most famous.
In 2003, the Carnival of Binche was proclaimed one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
There are around 1000 Gilles, all male, some as young as 3 years old. All wear the traditional costume of the Gille on Shrove Tuesday.
The outfit features a linen suit with red, yellow and black heraldic designs (the colours of the Belgian flag), trimmed with large white lace cuffs and collars. The suit is stuffed with straw, giving the Gille a hunched back.
They also wear wooden clogs and have bells attached to their belts.
In the morning they wear a mask of a particular design. After reaching the town hall, they remove these masks — they are not worn in the afternoon. During the afternoon parade, they throw blood oranges to (and sometimes at) the crowd and some of the Gilles wear large, white, feathered hats.
They carry ramons, tied bunches of twigs, and baskets in which to carry the oranges. Their sticks are said to ward off evil spirits.
- "17/24.- Wallonia: Gilles de Binche". Retrieved 2009-03-04.
- "Colorful Belgian 'Gilles' dancers mark Mardi Gras". International Herald Tribune. 2009-02-24. Retrieved 2009-03-04.