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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Dutchiness part 2: Carnival

Vastenavond or Carnival is almost on us. It is hard to believe that it has been over a year since I lived in the Netherlands, for it was among my first posts on my life here (link). Carnival is a celebration of indulgence and merriment before the fasting period begins. Seven weeks before Easter, the weekend before the Ash Wednesday, begin the festivities or rather the craziness. The name Carnival is derived from 'Carne' or meat which the Christians give up during the fasting period. In the Netherlands, Carnival is celebrated mostly in the Catholic prominent southern provinces - Noord Brabant and Limburg.

Okie, enough with the history of it, the Carnival as I understand is about getting as crazy as possible. On Sunday, the mayor of the city passes the keys of the city to the fake Prince or the jester in charge of the hullabaloo. From Sunday to Tuesday is the parade consisting of really fancy and weird large shaped floats, people dressed in the strangest of costumes (everybody is dressed up, if you don't then you must be a foreigner for sure!), the thumping oomph- oomph music and humongous amounts of beer everywhere on the streets. The all but deserted places in the bitter winter become suddenly warm and crowded over the weekend. A one week holiday for the students, a lot of the university crowd goes 'bar trekking'as they call it, skipping from one bar to another all night.

Breda, Maastricht and 's Hertogenbosch have the most elaborate celebrations. Last year I went to the one in Eindhoven. A large group of us are planning to go to Maastricht tomorrow to catch in on this year's parade. A much needed change to the cold weather here. More pictures and details later. :)
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