As a student, you might have heard of the Dutch tradition of carnaval around this time of year. You might even have been to party this past week in celebration of the tradition. But what is actually celebrated and why does it mainly happen in the south of the Netherlands? You’d be surprised to find out the history behind this “drink fest”.
The tradition of carnaval originated along the same lines as pancake (or Shrove) Tuesday did in the U.K. It is the last weekend before the Catholic tradition of lent. In the U.K. the tradition calls for a lot of pancake consumption to use up all the “luxurious” leftovers. However, in The Netherlands, we have a huge party of parades, small impromptu performances and dressing-up.
During this weekend, the source of partying is the south and if you’re in the north during carnaval you won’t even realize it. In the provinces of Noord-Brabant and Limburg, people put a stop to their daily lives for about a week and transform their hometowns into cities of craziness. Carnaval is also known as the party of role reversal, where nothing is as usual; roads get shut down, cities are renamed, people dress up in extravagant costumes and a new, temporary mayor is chosen to oversee the festivities: Prins Carnaval.
Nowadays, however, it has been recognized by the entire country as the place to be at the end of February and it has grown out to be a week(end) of partying and drinking, specifically among young people. People, young and old, come from all over the country to the south of the Netherlands to party for three or four days straight in well thought-out costumes.
One of the most definitive features of Dutch carnaval is the music. All of the very catchy songs are fully Dutch spoken and some even have complicated dance routines that match the lyrics. Music artists dedicate a lot of time to create the perfect and most catchy carnaval song, so that it is played everywhere.
If you missed out on it this year or didn’t even know it was on, next year you must go to Kielegat or Mestreech. Breda (or Kielegat during carnaval) is one of the biggest places to go for students and it’s easy to get to from Rotterdam; you don’t have to plan out to look for a party, because it’s all happening in the streets.
Hopefully this has informed you more on this famous Dutch feast of carnaval, not to be confused with the South-American parades and Latin music. Make sure not to miss out on it next year, Alaaf!