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.

gilles of Binche carnival
Clown-like performers known as Gilles take part in a carnival parade in the streets of Binche, on Shrove TuesdayBenoit Doppagne/AFP
gilles of Binche carnival
The Gilles take part in a parade through Binche, wearing a red, yellow and black medieval costumeYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Gilles of Binche take part in a procession on the Grand PlaceYves Herman/Reuters

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.

gilles of Binche carnival
The white ostrich plumes of the Gilles of Binche are seen among the crowd during the paradeYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Belgian police stand guard to the Gilles of Binche ahead of the paradeYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Gilles of Binche, with enormous ostrich plumes on their heads throw oranges at members of the publicYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
A Gille of Binche is almost obscured by white ostrich plumes as he throws an orangeYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Members of the crowd try to catch oranges thrown by the GillesYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Gilles dance around flares during the Rondeau at the carnival event in BincheYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Children dressed as Pierrot dance around flares wile the Gilles of Binche stand togetherYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Children dressed as Pierrot dance around flares during the RondeauYves Herman/Reuters

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.

gilles of Binche carnival
Philippe Petit, 67, is dressed by Jean-Luc Werrion in preparation for his 61st carnival as a GilleYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Philippe Petit, 67, tries on his costume ahead of his 61st carnivalYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Three-year-old Hugo Belleri, the youngest Gille of Binche, is dressed by members of his family before taking part in the paradeYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Hugo Belleri, 3, is dressed by members of his family before taking part in the parade of Young Gilles of BincheYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Hugo Belleri, the youngest Gilles of Binche at just 3, drinks a glass of champagne before taking part in the paradeYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Hugo Belleri heads off to take part in the parade of Young GillesYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Hugo Belleri takes part in the parade of Young Gilles of BincheYves Herman/Reuters
gilles of Binche carnival
Little Hugo Belleri throws an orange while taking part in the paradeYves Herman/Reuters