Besides windmills, clogs and tulips, not much else came to mind when I first thought of dutch culture. I could have done my research, but in typical wanderlust fashion I decided to jump into living in the Netherlands and learn as I went. One of my earliest and favourite dutch experiences was by far Carnaval.
Carnaval is a Catholic festival celebrated in the south of the Netherlands, Venice and some parts of France. It is a 5 day indulgence and party period that precedes the solemn 40 days of Lent. And indulge we did. From pirates to penguins, beer bottles to baby dragons and anything else we could find, in our colourful ensembles our crew took on our home town of Tilburg and the South of the Netherlands.
After a dinner of pasta courtesy of my Italian roommates/personal chiefs we started Carnaval at our beloved student pub Carpe Diem and drank and danced the night away. Unsure how we would survive the next 5 days we decided to take the next day slowly. We had decided to attempt to attend the Eindhoven parade, and then watch an Irish rugby match (the Irish insisted), continuing to party in true Carnaval spirit. In typical student fashion we didn’t get organised in time and missed the parade but enjoyed watching the game.
The next day we went to see the parade in Tilburg city centre. The parade was incredible, strange floats of caricature men and women twisted and sang. Huge rabbits and cartoon characters peered down at us, bobbing to the music from the brass bands. The parade even featured two gate crashing Australians who just couldn’t resist being involved. After the parade we attempted to make our way home and instead got swept up in a street rave. With DJs, smoke and dutch music we pretended to know the words to, the Carnaval craziness continued. The spontaneity of the day was thrilling and we rode our bikes home exuberant.
The next two days were spent in Cologne, Germany where the famous Rose Parade took place for Carnaval. The rose parade featured men and women in traditional German costumes showering the crowd with chocolates and flowers for the ladies. Eager to get a flower, my friends and I jumped and grabbed at the raining roses, tulips and lilies. And as per tradition, though males are meant to bestow flowers on their female counterparts, we brandished flowers to each other accompanied by declarations of love and laughter. The rest of the time in Cologne was spent exploring the beautiful city, visiting the untouched Old town, the Art museum and the magnificent Cologne Cathedral which took everyone’s breath away.
Carnaval was an experience of a life time. After all where else is it not only appropriate but culturally acceptable to dress up in crazy costumes, drink copious amounts of schobler (a dutch spirit), sing as loudly as you can, and dance in the street. Carnaval is an event that gives adults the chance to be children again, and children the chance to see their heritage. In a paradoxical way, Carnaval represents the passing on of a historical religious tradition that is so irresistibly mad and outlandish. It will be an experience I will be sure to remember.
Isabelle Cameron (11726421)