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Thursday, August 25, 2016

Medieval folklore on the warmest day of the year

Tonight, here in Dendermonde the procession of the Giants will take place. It's a special edition this year, as it is exactly 50 years since the medieval procession was put into a new concept - and it is also the warmest day of the year! The temperatures rises above 34° Celsius, what will make the task of the bearers more difficult.

Because - and you'd better believe it - these giants are not put on wheels and driven by motor! No, they are carried by real men - descendants of the former guild of shiploaders - and they walk and dance through the streets of the city center.  Each giant weighs about 80 kilos. However, it's not the weight which can cause trouble, it's the height. It is a very difficult task to balance the giant while walking and dancing.

The festivities end on the Great Market, where the giants will dance for a last time before going 'home' once more (they stay in a depot, where they are well maintained).

Like most historical processions this giants' procession goes back to the Middle Ages. 'Katuit' - there really is no translation for this word - meant the end of the summer fair which goes back to the inauguration of the Our Lady's Church from the 11th century. In the middle of the 15th century the three giants (Goliath, Mars and Indian) made by the guilds of Dendermonde, became a fixed part of the procession.

Since 1522, the bisschop decided that 'Katuit' would always be on the fourth Thursday of August. Until the 1960's Katuit remained a simple occasion. The three giants visited the inns of the town... (I still remember it, as we had a barber/café just across where we live). The giants were only accompanied by two drummers, two police officers and a few torch bearers.

Later on, it was decided to make more of a spectacle out of it. Harmonies joined in, and different tableaus were made.

All in all, the essence remains: all those who live in Dendermonde (and lots of others, from various parts of the country and even foreign visitors) want to see the giants dance!

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