The Doudou or "Ducasse de Mons" is THE event of the town of Mons. It's a popular folk festival that happens every year on Trinity Sunday (57 days after Easter). The whole thing started with a procession organized in the fourteenth century, to ward off the plague. Today this festival is known worldwide, and has been recognised as one of the Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since November 2005. The feast comprises two games: first, the procession, the descent and the uprising of the Waltrude’s Shrine and secondly, the combat of Saint George named Lumeçon. For a week week, curious visitors and the inhabitants of Mons celebrate festivities, dance and sing together on the rhythm of the Doudou. And for us, Montois, it's an opportunity to meet old friends and relatives in the crowded streets.
The Doudou designates as much the Dragon itself as the whole of the festivities. Not to mention "El Doudou", the air of the Doudou which is the national anthem montois, that you have to know if you want to take part to the general atmosphere (because believe me, it may resonate for a long time in your heads after this crazy week in folklore...).
He is the mascot, THE Star! The green Dragon or "El Biète" for the Montois symbolizes the social disorder. It is more than ten meters long and weighs about 180 kg. It is adorned with many ribbons (in Belgian colors - black, yellow, red - as well as the colors of Mons - white and red). The end of the tail is composed of horse hair. These bring good luck and people pull them out during the battle of Lumeçon. The crest of the animal is red and its fins are black. But the Doudou Dragon wouldn't be such a star without the White Men who wear it during the fight.
He is the hero during the battle, the savior! Saint-Georges symbolizes the social order. He rides on a black horse and he wears a yellow coat, the solar color, a white trousers and a blue shirt. He also wears a cuirassier helmet of the First Empire type. His weapons are the spear, the sword and the gun, which evoke not only warlike values but also symbols of power or justice. Glory to St. George!
She is the Star too, because it's her, the founder of the city ! She was born in Cousolre in 612 and dead on April 9, 686 or 688 in Mons. Married to the Count of Hainault, she raised four children. After her husband retired to an abbey, she herself became a nun in 656. She founded her own convent (Sainte-Waudru) around which the city of Mons grew. The shrine of Saint Waltrude is kept in the Saint Waltrude Collegiate Church. Each year during the Doudou, she is the subject to a solemn ceremony on Saturday evening. Through this ceremony, the Dean entrusts to the Mayor the relics of the holy so as to take them the next day across the streets of the city. The shrine is placed on the "Car d'Or", a gilded cart, and drawn by horses.
We all are, to some extent, stars of the Doudou! Other actors like Chin-chins, the Devils, Men of Leaves, Cybèle and Poliade, all players and people who participate in procession, in the uprising of the Waltrude’s Shrine and at the climb of the Car d'Or , are very important too. And obviously, you and all the spectators without whom the games wouldn't be so good, and the Ducasse such a happy one !
Et ric, et rac, on va sketer l'baraque !
It's the day of the pre-opening. Musicians of the Doudou repeat a last time, on the kiosk of the main square (Grand Place); many events and concerts take place in the cafes of Mons (Main square and Marché aux Herbes).
This is the OPENING..."The Doudou opens everywhere..." on the main square. Animations and concerts in town.
This is the day of free concerts...: Carillon concert of the Belfry, poetry evening in honor of Montois writers, animations and concerts in the evening on the Grand Place and Marché aux Herbes.
It's an important day...There are several processions and fanfares, an exhibition of Sainte Waudru and Saint Georges's objects and, at 8 pm, the famous ceremony of the "Descent of Sainte-Waudru's shrine". At 10 pm, an inevitable event of the Ducasse and one of my favorites: the "Torchlight Retreat". Its principle is simple: people gather down the "Rue de Nimy"; the melody of Torchlight Retirement ensures the musical animation and gives a sense of tempo. A group of volunteers, the "Companions of the Retreat", carry torches and placed themselves on both sides of the musicians and take the lead. Once the crowd is gathered, musicians play the traditional "American Patrol" followed by the "Air du Doudou", and the race starts. It's crazy!
It's D-Day! And it starts early in the morning. After the solemn Mass of the Trinity and the cortege of St. George, arrives the laying of the shrine of St. Waudru on the Car d'Or, the release of the Dragon from his cave, the procession of characters of the famous battle said "Lumeçon" , and the procession of the Car d'Or starting at 9.30 am. The Car d'Or Procession is the largest and most beautiful historical and religious procession in Wallonia and one of the most important in the country. The Procession features ancient brotherhoods and corporations that brought wealth to the town of Mons. Leaving the collegiate church, the procession "tours" across Mons before returning to the collegiate church, via the Ramp Sainte Waudru.
Here above, my father and his wife, from the Rolandins choir.
Here below, a short video glimpse of the Car d'Or procession.
If you want more precise information, I invite you to discover this website.
At midday, it is the rise of the Car d'Or, helped by the furious crowd.
Then comes the famous battle known as "Lumeçon". The bells of Saint Waudru ring out and the Air du Doudou can be heard from the belfry. Time has come. The time for Saint George and the Dragon to make their way down Rue des Clercs. The two legendary figures will play out their battle on the Grand-Place. Thousands of locals await them. They wouldn’t miss the event. Saint George comes first, closely followed by the Chin-chins, its protectors. Police officers and fire-fighters wearing period costumes make sure that everybody is safe. Everybody meets in the arena, worked up into a frenzy worthy of the greatest gladiator battles. It's a fabulous and energetic show, involving all major characters of the ceremony; people try to pull out the horse hair of the Doudou.
The fight is a ritual and a meticulous scenario. Here is a small video for you.
El biete est morte
"The Biete is dead" is the sentence that people say, once the fight "Lumeçon" is over, with some melancholy...
This is the day of the monster sale (braderie), and DJs make you move in the evening with the Doudou Sound Party. Let's go shopping and dancing!
In the evening on the Grand Place, do not miss fireworks and concerts, with several local and international fanfares. This day announces the end of the Doudou for adults.
It's the end for the adult's Ducasse... But since a few years ago, we have also celebrated the Doudou of children and teenagers. It's the "Little Lumeçon".
For this year's detailed schedule, click here.
In vlà co pou ein an
"Let's wait again one year..." Time out for festivities. See you next year...
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