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Written by Mandan Lynn on 19 Feb, 2007
Every year, the festivities of Carnaval take the southern part of the Netherlands by storm. Shops close, the kids get a week-long school vacation, and otherwise perfectly sane adults don ridiculous costumes and dance in the streets. The towns all change their names -- Den…Read More
Every year, the festivities of Carnaval take the southern part of the Netherlands by storm. Shops close, the kids get a week-long school vacation, and otherwise perfectly sane adults don ridiculous costumes and dance in the streets. The towns all change their names -- Den Dungen, where I live, became Krapperdonk. Costumes are on sale and there is a definite air of excitement.Saturday is the start of the four-day extravaganza. I went to Tilburg with Ruud and his friends. Tilburg is the 6th largest city in the Netherlands, and there were people everywhere! I saw some fantastic costumes -- a giraffe, the Statue of Liberty, and skiers (complete with sunburned faces). Some people really make an effort with their getups--you can tell they have been thinking about it for weeks before Carnaval begins. Ruud and his fraternity friends were all dressed in their powder blue suits. I had my paint clothes on (I was not someone who thought about her costume for weeks ahead of time). It was a pleasant evening, temperature-wise, so I ventured out without a coat.We went from bar to bar, each as packed as the last, people dancing to these Carnaval songs (which Dutch people delight in translating, because the lyrics are so ridiculous). We went home at 3:30, but most other people showed no sign of slowing down.On Sunday we got back in our costumes and went to the parade. It started at 1pm, but it didn't show up to where we were standing until almost 3pm. It lasted until 5pm. It's a bit different from the typical parade in America. The streets are blocked off, of course, but between the floats the partiers can get in the street and dance. There was a DJ just across the street from us, and he blared the Carnaval music to a delighted crowd. Even though we were outside, I still had to yell to be heard in a conversation, and my clothes still ended up smelling like smoke by the time we went home. Even after the parade was over, a happy drunken crowd continued to party in the streets.My Dutch friends asked if we have such a celebration at home, and attempted in one instance to compare it to Halloween. I explained our Halloween isn't quite so festive, and that some parts of the country, especially New Orleans, celebrate Mardi Gras. I also explained the subtle differences between them, namely that Mardi Gras involves a lot more naked women.They explained to me that sex just isn't the thing about Carnaval. Indeed, when you look around, the women aren't dressed to impress, in most cases. They're just dressed silly. They say that sometimes misguided Northerners journey south to celebrate--just to find drunk girls and easy sex. So the element is there, but it's certainly not the focus.The Netherlands is one of the few places where Carnaval is celebrated so enthusiastically. Hope you can be here! Close