By Edivaldo McEnroe
As carnival is approaching – officially starting today, March 3 – so are the hordes of people, including some from AUC, towards the gates of Oeteldonk, Lampegat, and Maastricht.
If only one of those cities sounds familiar to you, that is because the first two are known as Den Bosch and Eindhoven from Wednesday until next year’s carnival. Also, in Maastricht, the festivity is called vastelaovend, not carnival. In some places, like Amsterdam, festivities are limited as carnival is historically a Catholic festivity.
“Carnival is all about traditions”, says Jasmijn Bleijlevens, second-year Science major. In the Netherlands, these traditions vary per region. According to Femke Jansen, third-year Science major, in the smaller towns in the eastern provinces “You don’t really feel the atmosphere throughout the whole town like you would in the south, but during the parades and the parties it’s fun”.
Officially carnival season has been underway since the 11th of November. The eleventh of the eleventh holds symbolic value since in Germanic cultures 11 is considered the number of fools or the insane. Carnival is meant to be a festival where a degree of crazy is permitted. So people put their jobs on hold, dress up and celebrate.
However, it isn’t only about craziness. According to Inge Volleberg, AUC alumna and Maastricht native, “It is a party of togetherness, acting crazy together, looking crazy together”.
Understanding carnival may be an issue for outsiders – Bleijlevens admits that some traditions are “quite weird”. A lot of colloquial language and symbolism is used during the parades, street performances, and rituals.
Carnival has also gained a reputation of being a half-a-week long drinking binge. Volleberg says she believes this reputation is unjust, and it is one of the reasons she wouldn’t like to see an Amsterdam version of carnival. “It wouldn’t be grounded in tradition and culture and I fear that it would be reduced to a crude drinking party”, she said.
Third-year Science major, Linde Spoelstra, from Vught – near Den Bosch – also thinks that the emphasis isn’t on the drinking. “The adults mostly party and drink, but you can really notice that it is a festivity for adults and children alike”, she said.
Regardless of location and tradition, there seems to be one idea underlining all of carnival – that of sharing with each other. “It isn’t about getting drunk, but about drinking together”, said Volleberg. “It’s about dancing together, making music together, having fun together, with your friends but also with everyone you encounter because everyone is there with the same mindset”.