Despite the fact that all the carnivals in Europe ended with the beginning of Lent, in northern France in the seaside the town of Dunkerque and the surrounding area host a carnival, which lasts a few weeks after the beginning of Lent. Since the late 17th century the carnival was celebrated in Dunkerque by fishermen. This carnival is not associated with Christian traditions. It relates to the fact that in very beginning of the spring fishermen went fishing. Fishermen from Dunkerque sailed to the coast of Iceland, and the navigation sometimes lasted for half a year, none of the sailors was not sure that the returns from a dangerous voyage, so they wanted to exhilarate in full.
Today the carnival in Dunkerque is held in the same colorful and funny way as it was in the old days. Before the start of the holiday the city receives people from throughout the region, almost everybody is dressed in carnival costumes, according to the tradition, men are dressed in bright ladies clothing, depicting ladies of easy virtue and women themselves always put on a hat decorated with flowers and ribbons (as colourful as possible) and take with them many-colored umbrellas.
The main character of the carnival is Reuze Papa, who with the umbrella accompanied by a drummer and an assistant heads the grand procession, which is going to the central square of the city. Here, in front of the City Hall another carnival show that didn’t change over 2 centuries, is taking place. After the mayor of Dunkerque congratulates all the citizens and guests of the holiday from the balcony of the City Hall, he starts to throw into the crowd of people herring, as a symbol of the care of the city’s authorities about the people (in the old times the herring was intended for the poor). From the balcony is thrown more than 500kg of herring, the mayor can not dealt with so huge quantity by himself, so he is helped by his deputies.