The last weekend has been a festive one in Maastricht: Carnival took over the city. Costumes of all shapes, sizes and colours were put on and happy smiles invaded the city centre.
The Carnival is a three days celebration, which takes place every year, six weeks before the Easter Sunday. Traditionally, Carnival has been adopted by the Catholic communities as a celebration of the beginning of Lent, but nowadays much of this meaning has been lost.
Walking down the streets of Maastricht not wearing a costume on last Sunday, one could really feel in minority – all the other people around you were wearing very colourful, and even unique, costumes. From lions to cats, from princes to tramps, from spacemen to nurses, from witches to Batman – there is no character you can think of that has not been represented in the big Maastricht crowd. Little parades were marching on the tiny, decorated streets. People eating, drinking and dancing all across the town were witnessing the parades. Houses, shops and streets were all decorated with Carnival flags and in the Carnival colours: red, yellow and green. It is interesting to mention, maybe, that whilst these were the colours that dominated the streets of Maastricht, in other cities different colours were chosen. In Eindhoven, for instance, the Carnival flag contains the colours: orange/blue/orange. This proves how the same celebration can take different forms in different cities.
The Dutch do seem to love their festivals. Curious about what other celebrations I could take part in whilst still on my year abroad (just a couple of months left! *barely holding my tears*), I discovered a whole list of festivals. Coming in April, there is a flower parade from Noordwijk to Haarlem; in the same month, there is the King’s Day, when the whole country becomes orange; then the famous Gay Pride parade takes the streets of Amsterdam.
So if you are planning to spend your year or semester abroad in the Netherlands, I can assure you that you will not get bored. Take a note of all the festivals mentioned and look up some more, and make sure you get to all of them. And with regards to Carnival, I can assure you that a train journey to or from Maastricht during the celebration it is going to be a true adventure – how else could I call a trip next to Elvis Presley and some hippies?
And since today is the 1st March, I wish you happy spring, everyone! 🙂