Carnavals

Dunkirk's carnavals, held both before and (mischievously) after the beginning of Lent, originated as a final fling for the town's cod fishermen before they set out for months in the frigid waters off Iceland. The biggest celebration is the bande (parade) held on the Sunday before Mardi Gras. During the parade, costumed citizens march around town behind fife-and-drum bands, and general merriment reigns. At the climax of the festivities, the mayor and other dignitaries stand on the hôtel de ville (city hall) balcony and toss vacuum-packed, dried salted herrings to the assembled locals.