Dec 25, 2015

Carnival of Binche | Belgium

This postcard is from Belgium but was sent from the USA. It was sent by Stefan via Postcrossing [US-3750646]. He writes: 'On the card you see people wearing a Carnival costume in the city of Binche in Belgium. It is on the UNESCO list. They dance funny and throw oranges to the bystanders.'

The Carnival of Binche is an event that takes place each year in the Belgian town of Binche during the Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. The carnival is the best known of several that take place in Belgium at the same time and has been proclaimed as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity listed by UNESCO. Its history dates back to approximately the 14th century.

Events related to the carnival begin up to seven weeks prior to the primary celebrations. Street performances and public displays traditionally occur on the Sundays approaching Ash Wednesday, consisting of prescribed musical acts, dancing, and marching. Large numbers of Binche's inhabitants spend the Sunday directly prior to Ash Wednesday in costume.

The centrepiece of the carnival's proceedings are clown-like performers known as Gilles. Appearing, for the most part, on Shrove Tuesday, the Gilles are characterised by their vibrant dress, wax masks and wooden footwear. They number up to 1,000 at any given time, range in age from 3 to 60 years old, and are customarily male. The honour of being a Gille at the carnival is something that is aspired to by local men. From dawn on the morning of the carnival's final day, Gilles appear in the centre of Binche, to dance to the sound of drums and ward off evil spirits with sticks. Later during the day, they don large hats adorned with ostrich plumes, which can cost more than $300 US dollars to rent, and march through the town with baskets of oranges. These oranges are thrown to, and sometimes at, members of the crowd gathered to view the procession. The vigour and longevity of the orange-throwing event has in past caused damage to property – some residents choose to seal windows to prevent this. The oranges are considered good luck because they are a gift from the Gilles and it is an insult to throw them back. [wikipedia]

The postcard was sent from the USA with a Christmas stamp [2013].

Prekmurska gibanica | Slovenia

I have to admit I love postcards that picture the local traditions. This is one of them. It was sent by Robert from beautiful SLovenia via Postcrossing [SI-122265]. He writes that the 'card shows a housekeeper in daily traditional costume baking pastries - Prekmurska Gibanica, very tasty pastries.'

Prekmurska gibanica (Prekmurian layer cake) is a type of Slovenian gibanica or layered cake. It contains poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, raisins and ricotta fillings. Although native to Prekmurje, it has achieved the status of a national specialty of Slovenia. The unique sweetmeat shows the variety of agriculture in this region. The name gibanica comes from dialectical expression güba and in this case refers to a fold. For centuries prekmurska gibanica was served as a festive and ritual dish in Prekmurje. The exact origin of the recipe is not clear. Early sources suggest that it evolved over centuries. The oldest extant document (1828) by József Kossics described the wedding (prek: "Gostüvanje) never goes by without gibanica, which is done as follows: "The dough is rolled until thin, sprinkled with grated cabbage, turnips or ricotta. All is covered by second layer of dough. It is sprinkled as previously. 10 or 11 such layers are thus composed and form a conspicuous cake."

The prekmurska gibanica was chosen to represent Slovenia in the Café Europe initiative of the Austrian presidency of the European Union, on Europe Day 2006. In March 2010, the EU gave Prekmurska gibanica Protected Geographical Status within Europe. [wikipedia]

If anyone has an authentic Prekmurska gibanica recipe, do write it in the comments. I would love to make a traditional one [I am sure I can find loads online, but I would prefer an old family recipe - is it too much to ask?]

The postcard was postmarked on 12 December 2015 in Trbovlje, Slovenia.