Whatever the temperature and weather conditions, from New Year’s Eve on, people get ready for the next big party: the Carnival. This multiple day event is full of traditions and is celebrated all over the world. Comparing the Brazilian Carnival with the Burgundian in Germany may be difficult, but all types of Carnival involve dressing up, colourful parades and joyous dancing.
Carnival is a feast that is at least 2000 years old and it was the Romans who set the date at 40 days before Easter. Therefore Carnival is celebrated somewhere between the first weekend of February and the second weekend of March. So it can be a real winter celebration or an almost spring festivity.
Carnival was originally a 3-day celebration, but now the weekend is included to make it a 5-day event which brings people together, young and old. Celebrating Carnival comes with many traditions, often local, and they are passed on from generation to generation. Wherever you go, whatever the country or region, there are similarities, like the parades and the presence of the prince and the fool. There are clubs that build enormous, colourful floats with moving and turning parts. They are often theme-based and accompanied by music and dressed-up dancers. While some groups decide to stick to folkloric costumes, some have new costumes every year.
Within the Netherlands there are several traditions that differ from city to city and area to area. In the province of Noord-Brabant cities and villages have different names during Carnival and there is a different motto every year, which is often expressed in 11 letters. Most costumes will do, but if you don’t know what to wear you’ll get away with only wearing a blue smock and giant red handkerchief. Bergen op Zoom however is an exception; all men and women arrive with a lace or net curtain wrapped around their your shoulders.
In the province of Limburg there are very different traditions. They tend to dress up extensively and you can’t leave your house without an enormous hat and artistically applied face-paint. They also have themed days, which means that you need multiple costumes when celebrating Carnival the Limburgian way.
For many people the festivities start on 11 November. From this day on there are parties, from formal dress soirees in which princes are announced to parties in which songs are promoted. Most preparations for the parade start on this date on too. Carnival itself is a complete outburst after months of intense preparations. After Carnival, on Ash Wednesday, many people feel deprived from energy. A perfect day for sharing some pickled herring; one of those traditions that some appreciate and some not so much.