Carnaval: costumes, street parties and beer

Flickr Creative Commons / FaceMePLS

Have you been seeing Dutchies running around in crazy costumes in the most random places? No, they haven't gone wacko and they don't have trouble reading the calendar (though it not widely celebrated here, Dutch people do know that Halloween is in October). It's Carnaval!

Though the holiday is mainly celebrated in the South, you're likely to see folks dressed up all over the country as they flock south for the festivities. You could run into tin men, catholic school girls, lions, cats, boa creatures and any number of characters, mostly in and around train stations and on the train heading to cities in the provinces of North Brabant and Limburg to cities like Maastricht, Tilburg, Eindhoven, and Den Bosch (which is, incidentally, the location of the earliest documented Carnaval celebreation, dating back to 1385).

The whole shebang - which goes until Tuesday night - kicked off yesterday despite the threatening flurries and piling snow.

Interestingly enough, Carnaval is said to have stemmed from Catholic roots and is celebrated all over the world. Taking place during the period before Lent, Carnaval is a time when practitioners of the faith could eat, drink, and make merry before the religious fasting began (if you've got a calendar in front of you, you may have noticed that the day after Tuesday is Ash Wednesday - the first day of Lent).

First time experiencing Carnaval? Expect the unexpected! But you can definitely count on the festivities including processions, decorated floats, live music and DJs, street parties, and lots of beer. Just remember to dress warmly - Winter's decided to participate as well, having one last intensely cold fling before its own version of Lent: Spring, Summer, and Autumn.


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