Carnival                Maastricht

Celebrating Carnival in Maastricht:  The country never seems so divided by the great rivers as it does during
carnival season. Southerners declare that their celebrations are superior, and if you ever run into a southern
carnival parade, you'll have to admit that they know how to party. In Maastricht the festivities are especially
boisterous. On the Saturday before Ash Wednesday, the mayor officially hands over the keys of the city to Prince
Carnival, who will reign for the next 3 days. During this time, people parade through the streets of Maastricht in an
endless procession of outrageous outfits and boundless energy. The atmosphere is always high spirited, but it
never gets out of hand.  Carnival is in fact a Burgundian feast, which northerners do not know how to handle.
Northerners try to  'organize'
carnival, while you cannot 'organize' a fever. You 'get' it and you go to meet others who 'got' it.

Carnival starts in Maastricht with the running up the flagpole of 'het mooswief'  and the firing of 'the
cannon' on 'the Vrijthof', the well-known square in the middle of the town. That is followed by the
grand procession, followed in turn by three days and nights of celebration! In the streets, in the pubs
and everywhere.

"De Vogelstruys" decked out                              The "Mooswief' on the Vrijthof                          An Andre Fan at Carnival
for Carnival.

One only goes home when one grows hungry! For sleeping there is no time... for three days and nights they walk,
dance, sing, jump and play on the streets and in the bars.

Totally broke, very tired and most of the time with no voice left, they go back to school or work on Wednesday.  The
Maastricht carnival is indescribable: it's something you should experience!

Every year there is a new 'Prince Carnival' with his 'Council of Eleven', every year there is again
a crazy new carnival song, that you can hear being sung and played everywhere, and naturally,
you sing and dance with complete strangers, all together, in some costume or other, in the
streets, in the inns which have been completely cleared for the occasion, except for the beer taps.
Out of one hostelry, into the next. Music resounds through the streets, it rains kisses in the many
cosy, warm pubs around 'the Vrijthof' and other area's of Maastricht, you dance, you sing, you do
what you like, you flutter like a butterfly. You are gypsy or princess, potbelly stove or lampshade,
and you are...yourself. You discover the reason in the nonsense.
Prins Carnival of Maastricht  Every year a new one.                                                            

2000                   2001                  2002                    2003                  2004                     2005                      2006
Prins Peter            Prins Willy          Prins Bèr                   Prins Leon            Prins Corné .             Prins Luc               Prins Norbert
d’n Twiede            d’n Derde            d'n Derde                  d'n Twiede            d'n Ierste                    d'n Ierste                 d'n Ierste

A it of folklore, which annually makes its presence felt. There are no better words to describe the carnival than an
exuberant people's feast that has since, who knows when, been celebrated in many places, but the one in
Maastricht is shown on TV. But what is it that supports this feast so that it returns every year again?
Although opinion is divided, the fact is, that the origin of carnival is uncertain. Very many carnivalologists claim that
carnival has nothing to do with Christianity. They are in fact convinced that it was not just a coincidence that
continually similar celebrations with a lot of similar characteristics evolved throughout the centuries and returned.
One of those important characteristics was certainly the idea of fertility and the  birth of humanity and nature.
Accordingly the winter was farewelled with much happiness and triumph and spring welcomed.

Other carnival experts confirm, however that there is a link between carnival and Christianity. They assert that the
event did not exist before the year 1000 and that it is obviously rooted in Christianity. The exuberance of carnival
functioned then as antidote to the abstinence during fasting.

Yet others see in carnival as medieval creation a common people's interpretation of the miracle play. And
then of course there is the word itself 'carnaval' (Dutch). Although there seem to be other explanations
possible, the derivation from the Church latin 'carne levare', which points to the spoiling of meat, is a
possibility. It is from this 'carne levare' that later 'carnevale' evolved.

One of the many peculiarities which add colour to carnival, is the well-known  carnival
greeting: 'alaaf'. Not with the right hand to the right side of the forehead, as is customary,
but with the top of the right hand to the left temple. Possibly a then-parody of the strong
militarism of the Prussians - a so-called alternative greeting, or a pointer to the number
11. The fools number par excellence, which regularly appears in the carnival  events:
-the Council of Eleven; -on the 11th of the 11th month the carnival season is commenced
with celebrations, the Council of Eleven is meeting first time; -eleven is an evil number,
it exceeds the ten commandments.

And then there are the masks and the disguises. The present meaning of those must
be found in the temporary escape of normal life. This one causes to happen by climbing
into another skin. One sometimes calls clothing people's social outer skin. Well now, this
outer skin one changes for a certain period. From a disguised carnivalist one can expect anything. Their actions are
no longer predictable, but none is concerned about it. Carnival is a living people's entertainment, that, in spite of the
obstacles of the past and now, still exists. Was Petrus Canisius right when in 1572 he wrote: "Carnival, in my
opinion, cannot be abolished by king or emperor"?

 Young and Old alike celebrate Carnival in Maastricht
Prins Roland
d'n Ierste
Carnival in Maastricht
Do you think you recognize any faces???