Kattenbelletje Ypres Reviews
Throwing cats from the belfry May 10, 2009
Second Sunday in May every year in Ypres is the Kattenbelletje. Once every three years, the festival coincides with Kattenstoet, the Cat Parade.
The day starts at 3pm, with the Cat Parade. The Cat Parade is themed, with a Welcome to Ypres, Cats Throughout History, the History of Ypres, Cat Legends in Flanders, Cats Around the World and finally, the Ypres Cats - Mrs Minneke Poes and Mr Cieper. The parade is quite good - more restrained than the interactive parades or Malmedy or Stavelot, but some of the floats and make-up were excellent.
Following the Parade, at 6pm the historic portion of the show starts. In the centre at the old belfry a jester appears at the top and starts to throw cats down to the crowd below. It may have started as a warding to witches or (in a more practical sense) to get rid of the extra cats after the grain harvest has been depleted by the end of the winter. The tradition has been running for 900 years, but the last live cats were thrown in 1817. When the tradition was revived in 1938 toy cats were the replacement.
At 7pm the witch burning commences. As with the cat throwing, this barbaric tradition has been turned into a crowd-pleasing act. A witch was brought into the square in a wicker cage, condemned by a rigged trial of lords and priests. She was found "guilty" after a thirty minute trial. As they dragged her towards the wood pile she cried and screamed and plead for mercy. Like good Christians they ignored her pleas, threw her on the wood pile and burnt her (dummy) alive.
Good fun for the whole family.
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