Today sees the 43rd edition of Kattenstoet in Ypres, Belgium. This Festival of Cats takes place every third year on the second Sunday of May. Thousands of local people and tourists will line the city’s streets to watch the famous cat parade, which begins at 3pm and follows the theme ‘cats and mice’.
The origins of the festival trace back to the Middle Ages, where cats were considered instruments of the devil and witches. Though some of the event’s traditions play tribute to the culling of cats during the 14th century, the event today very much celebrates felines.
Hundreds will participate in the festivities wearing cat, witch or medieval costumes. The parade, undoubtedly the event highlight, will see over 2,000 participants – including brass bands and horse riders – march across width of the city. It is famous for the many man-made, colorful giant cat floats that take part in it. Standing almost three-stories high, their travel through the city is a unique spectacle.
The procession will end in the town square next to the Cloth Hall. There, the town jester will take toy cats to the hall’s belfry and drop them into the hands of the crowd below. Later in the evening, a mock witch burning will signal the end of the festival.
Large swathes Ypres was left in ruins after World War I. Its strategic position placed it at the center of several intense and sustained battles. While the fabric of the city was restored with German reparation money, the once annual Kattenstoet is attributed to returning the spirit back into Ypres.
Written by insider city guide series Hg2 | A Hedonist’s guide to…