Thursday, March 4, 2010

It's ok if it rains on this parade.

This week I had a delightful visit with friends Virginie and Rajiv, who passed through town with their adorable newborn bébé, Rohan. Virginie, as her name implies, is French (and, um, I suppose it also implies she is a virgin, but I digress). She comes from the North and back in February 2007, she invited us to her hometown Dunkerque to celebrate carnival.

"Dunkirk" is probably most familiar to Anglos for the Battle of Dunkirk and the mass exodus of over 300,000 Allied troops in the successful
Dunkirk Evacuation in 1940 during World War II.

More locally, Dunkerque is also known for its carnival, a 6-week party (elapsed time) consisting of over-the-top parade processions and a series of big balls. The carnival, in one shape or another, goes back hundreds of years, and over time has come to celebrate a beloved big guy, or geant, named Reuze Papa. He is feted by thousands of costumed carnavaleux, revelers like us who carry colored umbrellas, cross-dress, OD on make-up, wear bad hats, boas, wigs, beads, and sing carnival songs. The upshot is the worse the costume the better, and the locals are all over it. Everyone is game.

A highlight of the parade is when parade leaders intentionally stop moving, only to have everyone behind them (and by that I mean thousands) effectively result in a giant pile up, and as David Lee Roth might say, you mine as well jump. And so you do, until the parade gets moving again. This is not for the faint of heart, nor for people who require a lot of body space (which as I've established, the French do not.) The atmosphere is entirely festive and agreeable. Rain or shine.

We loved having an insider's take on this hilarious festival. And Franck's lips sure looked purty in all that rouge à lèvres.

Franck primps with the best of 'em.

Rajiv and Virginie (try to) pose in front of the church where they were married, but not without a little interference.

Gearing up before the parade with a laugh and hike of the skirt. voila les belles couleurs

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Jill for this "hommage" to the Dunkerque Carnaval!!
    May I add that the carnival also celebrates a famous local, Jean Bart, corsaire of Louis XIV and all parades are finished on the knees with a song in his honor (you'll definitely have to come back to see the grand finale which is le "clou du spectacle"). All Dunkerquois are proudly children of Jean Bart and so I'm already singing to Rohan...! ;)