In The Land of Giants

I’m off on a much lighter note today compared to my last 2 posts. One of the delights of travelling is the discovery of the unexpected that comes along.

One of those surprise finds was while staying in the French city of Arras – located about 70 km from the Belgian border.

In Northern France and Belgium, there has been a resurgence of giants since the end of the 1800s, following a tradition that dates back to the 1500s. It is estimated that there are currently over 300 giants in various communities and their numbers continue to grow.

Jacqueline stands 4.3 metres high (14.1 feet)

They may be local heroes – real or imaginary – or perhaps a representative of a local specialty trade. Their presence is a popular attraction at festivals and parades.

They are considered ‘living entities’ of the community. They are not made, but rather ‘born’, are baptized, get married, and ‘have children’. Each of these events of course is a reason for the town to celebrate.

The town of Arras has 4 giants, which we found on Easter Sunday at City Hall. They made their first appearance in 1891, but were ‘killed’ during WWI and again during WWII. The parents – Jacqueline and Colas – were ‘reborn’ again in 1981, and their son Dédé was ‘born’ in 1995.

I can’t find any information on the 4th giant now accompanying Dédé. I can only assume this is a visiting giant from another community.

As for doors, there were plenty. Finding interesting doors anywhere in Europe is like shooting fish in a barrel. One gets to be highly selective. Here are just a few taken inside the city hall. I’ll be revisiting this magnificent building and its exterior doors another time.

Thursday Doors is a weekly photo feature hosted by Norm Frampton at Norm 2.0.

85 comments

  1. Hi Joanne, Envy is such an ugly thing…yet I confess to be totally envious of your travels in France. I love reading about the serious, solemn places, as well as about the “lighter” stops along your journey.
    I hope to get there someday.

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  2. Your ‘soul infused’ Giant Dolls was just the follow-up I needed to perk up my spirits! Thank you for that. I was unaware of these playful entities in Europe. I recently came across something similar in Brazil (The Giant Carnival Dolls of Olinda) but I don’t think that these popular artistic attractions go through a full -rites of passage cycle that their European counterparts do.

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  3. I haven’t heard of the giants. Interesting about them being born…etc. They definitely look…well…giant!! lol. That building looks spectacular! Great finds this week Joanne. 🙂

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    • The building was quite spectacular, but unfortunately except for the reception area where the giants were, there was no exploring inside. In hindsight, I’m glad we chose to peak inside otherwise we would have missed the giants.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting how they completely embrace these giants as if they were real.

    One of the things I like about Europe is the individuality you see in homes and doors, in particular!

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  5. The Giants are fascinating and odd at the same time. Especially the concept of “living entities.” I agree with some of the comments on easy to find a reason to celebrate. I enjoy travelling along with you and your husband, Joanne🙂

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  6. Well there’s something you don;t see every day 😀
    We had a few mechanical giants on parade here for the 375 celebrations a few years ago, but those giants were just visiting. I had no idea this was a thing over there. A weird thing but no weirder than a giant moose or a big nickel I guess.
    Nice doors too. And you’re right, you trip over them everywhere in Europe. You have to either start getting fussy (selective) or you spend your entire vacation just taking pictures of doors.

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  7. Hello Joanne.

    Awesome. What an in interesting post! I have never heard about these. Well, in my country lived a man called Väinö Myllyrinne. He was big, but not a giant. His height was 247cm / 8.104ft. LOL.

    Happy upcoming weekend!

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  8. How did I not know about these?? I’ve been to France 5 times and Belgium twice and I have NEVER come across these. How is that? Right. Well, clearly another trip is going to be required one day to hunt these down. So much fun. 🙂

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    • I tripped over them by accident and I’ve struggled to find out what other communities might have them. I had hoped that in our travels we would find more of them – but so far not.

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  9. Haha, I have never heard of these giants before. And you are right: shooting fish in a barrel, that’s what we are doing over here. 😀 I wish to celebrate the fact that we share the same continent for a change right now! Yeahhhh! We are in the same time zone! Good morning! 🙂

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    • I think it’s hilarious that the town creates these significant milestone events for their giants in order to have a celebration.

      You noticed the hole in the giant which I hadn’t until I saw someone stick their head in it. It was such an odd sight 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Have been in the same area to visit the parents of a friend living in the USA, so it was more a social visit rather than touristic. I believe the town was Mons. So interesting Joanna, have been many times in Belgium, because I grew up, in the very SW part of the Netherlands, but I have never seen these giants:) A fun feature! Great doors too:)

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    • The quirkiness of it is rather endearing. We had mentioned it to our tour guide the following day and he said that there are parades that can have dozens and dozens of these giants in them.
      The whole idea of a community throwing a celebration for the ‘wedding’ or ‘birth’ of a giant is hilarious. Any reason for a party 🙂

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