Limoux Carnival in Languedoc-Roussillon is the world’s longest running carnival. It takes place from mid January to just before Easter, although it takes place at weekends twice a day and once in the evening until the last week when it becomes a daily feast.
Limoux is different from other carnivals in that it's more a local folklore celebration than a universal parade. Bands playing traditional music on trumpets, clarinets, basses, double basses and bass drums are led by the bandes de carnavaliers (bands of revelers) through the arcades of this pretty and ancient town. The traditional costumes are spectacular and include the Pierrot, the goudil which can run from the ordinary to the most noble, though always with a tongue-in-cheek touch, and the classic black domino, decorated with satin bands of bright sparkling colors.
The bands of revelers are the 'guilds' who play music and sing songs, but it's not as carefree as that sounds. The reason is satire, making fun of society and its rules, all conducted in the ancient Occitan language. The most impressive of these processions is the torchlit one at night, where you really do feel that the ghosts of the past are gathering.
There are exhibitions and events all through the carnival, but the main processions take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 11am, 4.30pm and 10pm.
While the bands who lead the procession are locals, you can join in (provided you dress up and the more obscure or strange the better). You can become one of the followers of the bandes through the streets, stopping at cafes for a quick glass of wine before the final stop in the main square, la place de la Republique.
The carnival ends after ten weeks on the second Sunday before Easter. This is La Nuit de la Blanquette, the night when His Majesty King Carnaval is burnt at the stake in the main square, la place de la Republique. A straw effigy, he is the scapegoat who takes the blame for the 'sins' people have committed during the festival.
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