Carnaval in Maastricht
There are red, yellow and green flags flying over the streets, and loud bands keep appearing outside local pubs. Carnaval is upon us! For most students it is a week of crazy partying, not to mention a break from Uni, but if you're not from "below the rivers" in the Netherlands then you might not have a clue about the brightly coloured madness that is about to take over the city. Here are some answers about why Carnaval exists, and how you can make this week a little easier.
1. Get an Outfit
Everyone is going to be dressed up, and if you want that true carnaval spirit then you need to join. It doesn't matter what you dress up as, or even if you dress up as a specific thing at all. Even outfits like a weird onesie and some snazzy face paint are enough. The weirder the better! But be warned- even after a week of weather reaching 21 celcius, the temperature is dropping to something a bit more February like. Carnaval is all outside, so be prepared for rain and cold. Perhaps an umbrella hat? If you don't have a costume yet, check out t'mooswief shop on the Markt (https://www.tmooswief.nl/). You won't be allowed into a club without one!
2. Get Prepared
Carnaval is THE holiday of Limburg, and the locals are not going to be doing anything other than celebrating. This means that pretty much every business in the city will be closed down for the festivities. Stock up on food now, and don't expect your favourite cafe to be open!
3. Learn a little bit about why this is happening...?
Like most holidays in the Netherlands, Carnaval has a religious link. The 1st day of Carnaval is six weeks before Easter Sunday, which is traditionally the start of lent. Carnaval is similar to Mardi Gras and ShroveTuesday in other countries. I guess the idea is to get all of the sin out of your system before Lent with three days of partying and drinking, before going to church on Wednesday to repent. Maybe you won't manage to rid yourself of the hangover in time for some hymns, but the religious side of this holiday is getting less strong, so feel free to enjoy the partying and not the praying.
Carnaval is almost soley celebrated below the rivers, in the provinces of Brabant and Limburg. In Maastricht, Carnaval even has a different name: "Vastelaovend"! Carnaval officially starts with the firing of a small canon at 11:11 on the Sunday, and the appearance of the Moosweif doll on the Vrijtof from Sunday until Tuesday evening. However, partying often begins on the Friday beforehand.
4. Have fun!
The madness only lasts so long- make the most of it and party til dawn. And if you fall asleep... well, there is always next year.