Craziness, colours, tradition, music and…fish are the elements to realize the perfect Dunkerque Carnival.
According to the legend, the first Carnivals were started by ship-owners, who celebrated with feasts and dances before the departure of fisherman leaving for six months of cod fishing in Iceland.
Since 1676 this celebration doesn’t seem to have changed a lot: everybody wears a mask and there are people from everywhere and any age. There are specific songs and a honorary rigadoon. The parade walks through the city, singing, dancing, shouting, until the Major’s palace. Here, I am not joking, everybody waits under the balcony with…none other than fishes! In fact, the Major and his collaborators throw smoked fishes (ready to be eaten) to the crowd, who tries to grab them in the heat of the moment.
The Carnival is organized by carnival associations. These are very old and each one arranges a Bal , a dancing event set up along the Carnival duration.
There are also Les Bandes, groups of people divided into tambour-major (main drum), music players and carnevaleux, that parade during the event.
The main day of the Dunkerque Carnival changes every year, according to the Easter calendar. In 2016 it will be on February 7th, with minor (but no less fun) events running from January until April.
Here you can find all the information you need to join this unique celebration!
How to get to Dunkerque:
- by train: SNCF website offers transit from Paris, Lille and minor cities.
- by bus: Flixbus offers solutions from Paris.
- In France it is also possible and common to hitchhike: from Lille, you can take the subway (red line) to Saint-Philibert, then the bus 61 to Centre Commercial (ENGLOS). Go back to the roundabout: there is a direction to Dunkerque. Here you just might find someone to give you a lift!
- Here you can find a good website to rent a car, that allows you to return it to a different location.