The Belgian town of Binche celebrates Shrove Tuesday, or Mardi Gras, with a unique Carnival tradition that dates back to the 14th century.
About 1,000 male residents become clown-like performers known as Gilles for the day. They parade through the town wearing wooden clogs and a medieval red and yellow costume stuffed with straw.
During the morning parade, they wear identical wax masks, decorated with green glasses, a moustache and a tiny goatee and sideburns. The masked figures assemble on the town's Grand Place and dance with brooms to sweep evil spirits away.
Later in the day, the Gilles wear hats adorned with huge white ostrich feather plumes and march through the town with baskets of oranges, symbolising the coming Spring.
They throw the oranges to – or sometimes at – members of the public. It's supposed to be lucky to get hit.
The Carnival of Binche has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by Unesco.
Locals take great pride in recreating the medieval rituals. Reuters photojournalist Yves Herman photographed the town's oldest and youngest Gilles getting ready for the Carnival.
This article was first published
on February 17, 2015