carnival 2015

Dressing up for the occasion

The Dutch don’t dress up for cycling, they dress up for where they are going. That doesn’t become much clearer than when they cycle to Carnival festivities. Carnival will still be going on for another 24 hours when I publish this post. All over the world, especially in the – formerly – Catholic regions, people celebrate the beginning of Lent with 3 days of festivities. There are huge regional differences and in the province of Brabant where I live the dominant type is called “Bourgondisch Carneval” (Burgundian Carnival) in which everybody dresses up as a peasant, to all be equal. Well-known cities for Carnival in The Netherlands are Breda and especially my home town ʼs-Hertogenbosch. The oldest mention of Carnival in The Netherlands is in fact that of ʼs-Hertogenbosch in the year 1383.

carnival 2015
A young boy cycling in the traditional blue peasant’s smock.

Even though you can see people dressing up in other things than the traditional blue farmer’s smock, that tradition is still upheld by young and old. In more recent years it has become more and more fashionable to decorate the smock with badges and frogs. People wear it with accessories in the colours red, white and yellow; the colours of Oeteldonk. Yes, this city, that already has two names, takes on a third name during Carnival…

carnival 2015
Some elderly people haven’t given up cycling nor celebrating carnival!

It has become sort of a tradition that I film the people cycling to the festivities. This year the weather was exceptionally sunny and ‘warm’ (8.8C/47.8F), so there were even more people cycling than usual. And so I spent the afternoon filming and later editing this video. I had nothing better to do. Since I was born and raised in Utrecht – a no-Carnival city – I am simply not able to participate in the festivities. If you didn’t grow up with the tradition it is very hard to grow accustomed to it in later life. That I don’t drink alcohol doesn’t help either. And so I watch the organised silliness from a distance. I would have been better at place at work in Utrecht, but during Carnival marching bands play in my street in the middle of the night and when they are not there, the bar next door plays very loud music until 2 am, so I always take at least one day off.

carnival 2015
A lot of the drinking and dancing took place outdoors this year and it is also obvious which was the preferred type of transport!

But the dressed up cyclists look very colourful and this creates very enjoyable and happy images.

carnival 2015
Cycling and celebrating Carnival transgresses generations.
carnival 2015
A black overcoat is an accepted alternative to the blue smock in Oeteldonk. These three women wear one. Their outfit is very typical for ʼs-Hertogenbosch. You will not find this in any other city in The Netherlands.
carnival 2015
This outfit has a more personal touch, but the the colours give away that this is also in ʼs-Hertogenbosch!
carnival 2015
Since Oeteldonk is believed to be surrounded by swamps, the frog is also a typical symbol of Carnival in this city. The little boy is dressed up as a frog.
carnival 2015
His bigger sister makes sure the boy doesn’t stay behind when the family rides off at the traffic light. Dad is way too fast for his kids.

This year’s Carnival Video from Oeteldonk (ʼs-Hertogenbosch).





9 thoughts on “Dressing up for the occasion

  1. I wonder why it is hard to get into something like this historic party (am I using historic correctly). You can probably find things to wear that makes you look equal to everyone else. What is required of alcohol during this party. I don*t drink, 1 because the age of majority, at least for my place is greater than my age. Two because it smells pretty bad and three because of the, um, **minor** side effects. My apostrophe button does*t work, so I need to use asterisks instead. I wonder what happens if a Catholic is literally allergic to it, can be still take part in things like Lent. BTW when is the celebration where most Dutch people dress up in anything orange they can find and celebrate independence from the Spanish. Or at least I think that is what they are celebrating by doing silly things with orange. Same silly things that Canadians do by dressing up in red and white or maple leafs. You are probably going to celebrate this day I am referencing (the Dutch one not Canada day) by filming people cycling to things like fireworks, visiting government buildings and anything else people like to do all while being orange. I do not mean people purposefully trying to give themselves carotenosis.

    1. The dressing up in orange has nothing to do with the independence from the Spanish (we don’t celebrate that, which I think is a shame, because our declaration of independence, the ‘Acte van Verlatinge’ (Act of Abjuration) is an important document not just in Dutch but also international political history). It’s Prinsjesdag (Princes Day), which is celebrated on the King’s birthday. Apart from that Dutch are also going all-orange when the Dutch football team plays in European or World Championships.

      1. It’s King’s day (Koningsdag), celebrated on the King’s birthday. Prinsjesdag (Princes day) is in September, the opening of the States General, which doesn’t include much dressing up in orange. The most notable there is a golden carriage, and lots of fancy hats.

  2. Great post. Shows that getting to an event can be part of the fun and not a motorised logistics nightmare for attendees and organisers as it is in Australia.

    I really enjoyed the video and the music (drumming reminded me of Theun at an Anthony’s Putsch gig) although I can imagine how it would start to grate on your nerves after midnight 🙂

  3. Thanks for the photos, and all the explanations of clothing and colors! I really enjoy your posts, in fact you have inspired me to take a bike trip to Holland this spring. my grandparents were teachers in DenBosch in the 1960’s

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.