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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 - and, after a year-long hiatus thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, Carnival is back in 2022!. 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 (or Carnaval in Dutch) 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 the Easter holidays. 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, 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 in the Netherlands

This year, Carnival kicks off on Saturday, February 26, and lasts all the way through to Tuesday, March 1. Want to get involved in the celebrations but not sure where to start? Don't worry, various cities across the Netherlands will be taking part in Carnival 2022:

  • Maastricht - There will be a number of events taking place in Maastricht as part of the Carnival celebrations, including a parade on February 27.
  • Den Bosch - Celebrations in Den Bosch (renamed Oeteldonk for the festivities) will be smaller than normal this year, but Carnival is still happening!
  • Breda - Known as Kielegat during Carnival, Breda is also planning a toned-down version of the event this year.
  • Tilburg - The city of Tilburg (also known as Kruikenstad at this time of year) decided to cancel all official Carnaval events this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but many bars and restaurants are planning their own parties to celebrate the occasion, and the Carnaval parade has been postponed until March 27, 2022.
  •  Eindhoven - Carnaval organisers in Lampegat (known more commonly as Eindhoven) decided to cancel the iconic parade and other large-scale events, but local business owners are planning their own events for those who can't wait until 2023 to celebrate.

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Plan your Carnival 2022 celebrations

Carnival may still look a little different this year, but people up and down the country are nevertheless excited to get their Carnival on!

So, get your Carnival costume ready, choose your city of celebration and get ready to enjoy one of the most fun, friendly and colourful annual celebrations in the Netherlands.

Rachel Deloughry

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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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