Animal lovers would be appalled at the ancient custom that the people of Ypres used to practise to celebrate their conversion to Christianity.
Animal lovers would be appalled at the ancient custom that the people of Ypres used to practise to celebrate their conversion to Christianity. Cats, which were a pagan object of worship and were believed to pull the chariot of Freya--goddess of love----were thrown from the top of the Saint Mattin Tower in the town. This was to symbolise their throwing out the worship of pagan gods and the acceptance of Christianity.
Continually interrupted by wars and the like the custom persisted until 1813, when live cats were dispensed with. By 1938 Kattefeest disappeared and was forgotten. 120 years later there was a revival, but toy cats are tossed from the tower of the City Hall in the Grand Place, by the 'fool of the town'.
Present on this occasion were two of the children of Leopold III, Prince Alexander and Princess Marie Christine. They were offered flowers and gifts, including a plush replica of the Ypres Jester, for the Princess.
The procession illustrating the mythology of cats through many centuries and countries passed slowly round the town. There were floats depicting the Cat in Egyptian times; the Chariot of the Goddess Freya, drawn by cats; evil witches with their pets; the giant Devil and his followers. There was a scene showing the 'Siege of Cats' Castle' by an Army of rats, mice and dogs led by the mouse Makit as a reprisal for the death of a relative caused by cats.
For 15 days there is a grand fair at Ypres, plays, folklore dances and general carnival activities, also. This year the event was delayed so that visitors to the Brussels International Exhibition would be able to travel to Ypres to enjoy the spectacle.