The Ducasse of Mons - or Doudou Festival - May 2014
If you have never attended the exhilarating Doudou festival in Mons, then here is a great opportunity. Come join one of Belgium’s oldest folkores and spend an unforgettable day.
The Doudou is the popular name for a week of collective jubilation that takes place in Mons on the weekend of the Trinity each year. Its origins date back to the 14th century. The Ducasse (annual festival) culminates in the ritual re-enactment of the battle between Saint George and the Dragon. There are four key moments:
The Descent of the Shrine
The descent of the shrine holding the relics of Saint Waudru, who is regarded as the town’s founder and patron saint. She is the subject of a moving ceremony on Saturday evening in the collegiate church named after her. During this solemn service, the Dean entrusts the Mayor with the relics of the saint so that he, the Mayor, may lead the procession in the town’s streets the next day. The ceremony closes with the singing of El Doudou, the song that gives the entire week’s festivities their local nickname. The song is sung almost constantly throughout the event.
On Sunday morning, the shrine is placed on a ceremonial gilt carriage called the Car d’Or. This is the beginning of a day filled with emotion and joy. Some 1 500 participants, divided into about sixty groups, parade in period costume. They make up the brotherhoods and guilds that, since the Middle Ages, have contributed to the wealth and power of the capital of Hainaut. Harnessed to six sturdy dray-horses, the Car d’Or is the centre of attention during its tour through the town.
The Ascent of the Car d’Or.
At the end of the procession, the public gathers en masse behind the Car d’Or. Amid cries of enthusiasm, thousands of hands join together to push the carriage up the cobbled slope to reach the collegiate church. The stakes are high; the people of Mons hold the belief that the Car d’Or must reach the top of the hill in one go, or a great misfortune will befall the town. The ascent lasts barely twenty seconds, but is an intense moment rendered all the more poignant by the public’s rousing support.
The « Combat di Lumeçon »
The relics of Saint Waudru are barely back in place in the church before Saint George is preparing to face the dragon. He is accompanied by the characters of the Lumeçon: eleven devils, ten “chins-chins,” the men in white, the men in foliage, and firemen and policemen in white and blue helmets. At around 12:30 the protagonists begin the triumphal descent from the collegiate church via the rue des Clercs to the Grand-Place, the main square, where thousands of people gather in front of the Town Hall. During the descent, and throughout the battle, the people try to grab hairs from the tip of the dragon’s tail for luck. At the centre of the square, Saint George, surrounded by the Lumeçon characters, fights the dragon, called “el Biète” (local dialect for “the Beast”). He starts out with a lance and a sabre, then switches to a pistol. It is a half-hour of tense excitement, punctuated by the rhythmic chanting of the traditional song “El Doudou.” The Dragon is finally killed by Saint George with one last pistol shot and all the participants enter the Town Hall courtyard. Meanwhile, the enthusiastic crowd sings “The people of Mons will not perish!” Mons’ continued good fortune has been assured for yet another year and the party can go on!
Watch the Doudou festival video presentation here
Ducasse de Mons - Le Doudou
Date: May 2013 - TBC
Location: Grand-Place of Mons (and surroundings)
7000 Mons - Belgium