Monday, August 23, 2010

Ducasse d'Ath Part 2

Over the course of the ducasse, there are several major events and many minor ones.  In between, there is frite eating and beer drinking.  The major events are the wedding of Goliath and Mrs. Goliath, the fight between David and Goliath and then the next day is the parade of the giants.

Given our schedule this weekend, the event that was the most convenient for us to see was the wedding, though next year we may try for the parade.  (The fight of David and Goliath is probably the most interesting event to witness, but also has the least visibility as there aren't any wide open spaces in a centuries old city)

As I describe the "wedding" keep in mind Kyle and I have brought our two American teenagers to witness this.
At 2:30 on Saturday afternoon, Goliath and the soon to be Mrs. Goliath come down the street toward the Grand Place of Ath.

As you will be able to see in photos, both Goliath and soon to be Mrs. G are wearing skirts made from floral print bed sheets.  These skirts have a small hole in the front for the person in the costume to see and a large gap in the back from which the person can exit.  The skirt is far more becoming on soon to be Mrs. G than on Goliath himself.

Each giant is surrounded by people in white - the handlers.  They make sure the giant doesn't topple over, push the numerous photographers out of the way and pick up any coinage thrown at the giants (it is a tradition to toss coins).

From 2:30 until 3:00 Goliath and Mrs. G stand outside the hotel de ville (city hall).  During this time wedding guests amass and the band gets in place but pretty much this is a half an hour of just standing around listening to your kids whine.

Then at 3pm Goliath and soon to be Mrs. Goliath begin their procession down the street to the church.  People line the streets wearing their purple, yellow and white neck cords (remember yesterday's blog).  The parade is led by soldiers and then come Goliath and soon to be Mrs. G followed by a band followed by the wedding guests.
I liked the combo of spats
and athletic shoes for this uniform

The parade was an interesting experience, as Americans we are used to barricades and someone official keeping the crowds out of the way.  In Ath, there weren't any barricades and people just popped into the middle of the parade, when they wanted to take a picture or greet a participant.   You can probably see this phenomena the best in the photo of Goliath.

The whole procession moves slowly down the street with Goliath and soon to be Mrs. G "dancing" (turning in circles) to the music of the band.

When Goliath and soon to be Mrs. G reach the church, the church bells ring out for an extended period of time and all the wedding guests go into the church for the wedding.
To attend the wedding one must get tickets in advance and dress up as if one is going to an actual wedding.  We checked out the church in advance, it was all decorated for the occasion.  Earlier the choir had been heard practicing for the event.
We left after the parade had passed us (the kids were disappointed, but we had to go - church picnic was that evening).

In case you are wondering what happens next - the wedding takes awhile and then Goliath and Mrs. Goliath exit the church and head back up the street.  While they are walking along celebrating their wedding with all the guests, David pops out of nowhere and fights Goliath.  David kills Goliath and that's pretty much it for the Saturday events of the ducasse.

You will be pleased to know that Goliath is resurrected on Sunday morning so he and his wife and their giant friends can parade through the streets.

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