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Carnival Celebrations in the Netherlands

Carnival Celebrations in the Netherlands

Carnival Celebrations in the Netherlands

One of the most hotly anticipated times of the year for certain people living in the Netherlands is Carnival. You won't find this celebration in every Dutch city or town - it's a regional speciality, mostly celebrated in the regions of North Brabant and Limburg, as well as a few other places dotted around other provinces.

What is Carnival? 

Carnival was originally a pagan holiday. The Christian church assimilated the feast into their calendar to mark the three days leading up to Ash Wednesday that signal the beginning of Lent and the fasting period before Easter. It was celebrated throughout the Netherlands in the past, but ever since World War II, Carnival has been celebrated predominantly in the Catholic provinces of North Brabant and Limburg. 

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The European city most strongly associated with Carnival is probably Venice. The Dutch version is indeed a melting pot of Dutch traditions with Italian, French and German elements. It involves a reversal of social norms where revellers wear costumes, the cities temporarily change their names, a Prince of Carnival is chosen and daily life is put on hold to make way for parties!

The highlight of the Carnival festivities is the Carnival Parade, in which a tour of large floats organised by local Carnival associations pokes fun at established authorities and social conventions.

Where to Celebrate Carnival

Visit these cities to get a taste of Dutch Carnival:

Maastricht 

  • Where: Around the central Vrijthof square in the heart of Maastricht.
  • What: The largest Carnival celebration in the Netherlands takes place in Maastricht. The official festivities begin on March 1, as the Prince's Guard presents himself to the Prince of Carnival. The main parade begins once the 11 shots are fired. Celebrations continue until March 5 at 11.55pm. Maastricht's name changes to Mestreech.

Den Bosch 

  • Where: The historic inner-city around the market square, right up towards the train station.
  • What: The Youth Carnival and celebrations begin on Saturday, March 2 in Den Bosch, with the main parade taking place on March 4, starting at Van Grobbendoncklaan at 12.33pm. During Carnival, people call the city of Den Bosch by the special name: Oeteldonk. The celebration comes to an end with the burying of Knillis, a giant icon of the alleged founder of Oeteldonk. 

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Breda 

  • Where: The Grote Markt and its surrounding area.
  • What: During Carnival, Breda is known as Kielegat. The symbolic key is handed to the Prince of Carnival on Saturday, March 2 on the Grote Markt. The children's parade is on March 3, the featured parade takes place on March 4 and the celebration ends with the symbolic burning of Kiske and Mieske.

Tilburg 

  • Where: The area just south of Tilburg train station down to Stadhuisstraat.
  • What: On Saturday, March 2, the Prince of Carnival is picked up from the train station in Tilburg to officially open the ceremony. The main parade takes place on March 3, orchestras are featured on March 4 and the ceremony closes on March 5. Kruikenstad is the special name given to Tilburg during Carnival.

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Eindhoven 

  • Where: In Eindhoven city centre surrounding the Vestdijk.
  • What: Lampegat is Eindhoven's nickname during the Carnival celebrations. Kicking off with the featured parade on Saturday, March 2, the Lampegat celebrations continue until March 4 with a variety of street parties and live music performances taking place in cafes and pubs throughout the city. 

Venlo

  • Where: Zoepkoel, Maaspoort and other parts of the city.
  • What: The oldest of the Carnival organisations, Venlo changes its name to Jocus Riék for the occasion. The Boétezitting will take place on Saturday, March 2, parades on Sunday and Monday, and the Farmer’s Wedding on Tuesday.

Enschede

  • Where: Parkweg at the Volkspark as far as Molenstraat.
  • What: Enschede - nicknamed Krekkelstad during the festivities - is famous for its fun Carnival parade through the city on March 3, 2019. This is one of the most popular Carnival celebrations that is not located in the southern provinces. Carnival in Enschede goes back to 1960, but it never became as widely popular or hyped as a Carnival city compared to some of the southern cities in the Netherlands.

Plan your carnival 2019 celebrations

Get your Carnival costume ready, choose your city of celebration and get your friends and family down to one of the most fun, friendly and colourful annual celebrations in the Netherlands.

Rachel

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Rachel Deloughry

Rachel is a writer, editor and digital content creator, passionate about the arts, culture and lifestyle.

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Carrie Suhr 09:33 | 1 February 2019

The parade in Den Bosch is on Monday the 4th? https://www.oeteldonk.org/agenda/oeteldonk/105de-grote-optocht-oeteldonk