Thursday, November 10, 2011

Belgium's Kattenstoet Cat Festival

(cedricdubois)

Although most of us celebrate cats every day in our own homes, one European city turns the practice into a parade and festival, held every third year on the second Sunday of May. The Kattenstoet (Festival of the Cats) parade in Ypres, Belgium is steeped in tradition dating back to the Middle Ages, although its origins are far from being feline-friendly.



The festival is a commemoration of an inhumane practice where the town jester would throw live cats off the belfry tower of Cloth Hall. No one knows the exact reason this cruel tradition started, but it's believed to have its roots in fears over sorcery and witchcraft. Another theory is that Cloth Hall was used to house wool in the winter, and that kitties were brought in to control the rodent population. Once spring came and the wool was sold, the cats were no longer needed, and thus disposed of.



Fortunately, the horrifying cat tossing practice ended in 1817, when it was banned for good. Kattenstoet continued, but it wasn't until 1955 that the first large festival was staged. Nowadays, it celebrates the history and tradition of the cat, with floats, music, stilt walkers, and costumed spectators (many of them dressed as cats) enjoying the festivities. In a nod back to its dubious beginnings, the parade concludes with a jester ascending Cloth Hall, symbolically tossing plush cats into the eagerly awaiting crowd.



Kattenstoet celebrated its last festival (its 42nd edition) on May 10, 2009, which means the next one should be coming up in 2012. I wasn't able to find any confirmation of this, but if you have any information, or have been to the festival yourself and can tell me more about it, I'd love to hear from you!


See more images here.

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7 comments:

Kitty said...

wow! would so definitely attend this if near me! LOL! So glad that horrible practice ended a long time ago! Kitties are so precious!

Kathy said...

The 43rd Ypres Cat Festival takes place on Sunday 13 May 2012 according to http://www.toerisme-ieper.be/en/pagina/146-309/kattenstoet.html
Am seriously thinking about hopping over! What a spectacle and it would be amazing to be surrounded by all those cat enthusiasts!

Avalon Cat Cartoons said...

I am from Belgium and apparantly the next kattenstoet is on May 12, 2012. I am definitely going :)

Catsparella said...

@Avalon Woohoo! Thanks for the update!! Have a great time!! :)

Wonky Eye Kitty said...

I live in Belgium! My human will be reporting live from the Kattenstoet next year on my Facebook page!! (link: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Wonky-Eye-Kitty/164414680267140)

Catsparella said...

@Wonky Eye Kitty Wow!! I can't wait to hear all about it!! Have fun!! :) :)

Kokoro Purrs said...

Reason to move...

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