This folk weekend is one of the most popular in Belgium!
For more than five centuries, the Ducasse has had the people of Aths dancing every 4th weekend of August. Giant carriers show real technical prowess by lifting characters several metres high and weighing more than 100kg. Featuring Goliath (Gouyasse in local patois), this parade lasts for several days and sees more than 50,000 visitors parading past. The Ducasse d'Ath was recognised as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by Unesco in 2005.
Three key events
- Friday evening: the day of “burning the trousers” of the giant Goliath.
- On Saturday afternoon, Goliath leads his fiancée to the altar of St Julien church for the “Gouyasse vespers”. The bride and groom then head to the town hall where the Athenian hero confronts David in a legendary fight. The tension is at its height when the last blow is delivered by David. The victory is not known beforehand: if the Shepherd wins the fight, the giants begin their traditional dance. Otherwise, they return without dancing.
- Sundays from 9.45am to 3pm: seven giants accompany the procession through the town of Ath. Eight allegorical floats, marching bands and other historical groups leave from the station towards the Esplanade. The couple dances together several times to celebrate their union. The Bayard horse, which weighs more than 630kg, is carried by 16 men. Its pirouettes impress the crowd and attract enthusiastic applause from young and old alike.
And for a perfect end to the day...
Enjoy the traditional masteilles tart, also known as the gouyasse tart (composed of almonds, dried biscuits – masteilles – and butter).
Explore behind the scenes at the House of Giants
The House of the Giants is the place to go to to better understand what lies behind this tradition. You’ll find yourself underneath a giant’s petticoat, in the wearer’s place, and see what he sees thanks to an embedded camera. This visit is also an opportunity to learn more about the different stages of creation of these immense dolls, the materials used and the know-how of craftsmen. Finally, you’ll discover that the tradition of the giants of Ath is not the only one in the world. Other countries such as Germany, Austria, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Spain, Canada, China and Portugal also have their giants. An interactive family visit!