Ypres, Belgium, stages the Festival of Cats on the second Sunday of May every three years. The festival harkens back to a time in which cats were tortured and destroyed because they were believed to be witches or incarnations of the devil. However, the modern festival is instead a celebration of cats, and no live cats are involved.
The centerpiece of the festival is the Cat Parade. The first parade was held in 1938 with music, a jester, and a bunch of altar boys carrying a bunch of plastic cats. They marched from the city hall to the belfry. Amid a concert of trumpet music and the carillon of bells, the jester climbed to the top of the belfry tower to throw the toy cats into the crowd below. This was based on how live cats were once thrown from the bell tower during the Middle Ages. These days it is soft plush cats that are tossed to the crowd below, perhaps mocking the awful brutality that is now thankfully left to the past. A mock witch burning also remains as a part of the festivities.
Kattenstoet would have been this weekend, but the festival was held last year and the next one will be in 2015. See plenty of pictures and a video of the parade at PetsLady. Link -via the Presurfer
(Image credit: Flickr user Cedric Dubois)