...because Carnival time in the Netherlands is not for the faint of heart. Held in the days leading up to Ash Wednesday (this year falling on the weekend of February 9th and 10th), Carnival is a weekend where entire Dutch towns become one large party. Be prepared to not only drink significant amounts of beer (which sort of goes without saying, I mean, you're already in the country where there's a museum dedicated solely to Heineken), but to wear a ridiculously silly costume with pride and dance to some of the silliest folk music around.
Carnival in Maastricht (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
What, then, is Carnival to the Dutch? An annual tradition since World War II, Carnival was generally celebrated only in the southern Catholic regions of the Netherlands. However, more and more northern towns are beginning to take part in the Carnival tradition because, well, why wouldn't they, its an excuse to party with your neighbors for an entire weekend! The main Carnival provinces are Limburg and the southern portion of North-Brabant, with Maastricht generally considered to be the capital of Carnival celebrations. Many towns in these regions hold parades with floats full of papier-mache-ed caricatures of local celebrities (such as mayors) while singing songs that poke fun at them, not always good-naturedly. Those not taking part in the actual parades also dress up in costumes and dance the weekend away to traditional Carnival brass band folk music. Normally sensible grown-up citizens can be found drinking heavily in beer tents and dancing the conga while dressed as frogs, clowns, crows and sexy kitty cats. To top it off, local TV and radio stations devote significant portions of airtime to popular Carnival songs both new and old that are usually on the wrong side of political correctness at best, bawdy and obscene at worst. For your viewing pleasure, here's one of the more PG13 ones called "Come out of the Closet, Peekaboo!" As you can probably figure out from the video, it's about a group of jolly Dutch fellows making fun of their male friend who is hiding in a closet because he likes to dress up in women's clothing in his spare time. Compared to most other Carnival-related video clips this one is actually relatively tame!
Political correctness issues aside, Carnival is about wholeheartedly embracing your silly side. It's a party where madness reigns over sanity, and vast quantities of beer reign over inhibitions. Special Carnival Committees are even organized and their sole function is to prevent anything serious from happening during the days of Carnival. If you think you're ready to partake in a Dutch level of silliness, I suggest you spend a weekend partying with those crazy southern Dutchies - my only request is, please, send us pictures?
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