A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Weird and wonderful costumes, an unlimited supply of strange Dutch pop music (complete with dance moves) and an excessive amount of beer characterised my weekend. I had decided to head down ‘South’ to experience carnival!
“We’ve passed the river, that means we’re in ‘The South'” my friend explained on the train journey down to Breda. Given the tiny size of The Netherlands, it never crossed my mind that there would be a North/South divide; but here on a journey of just an hour, I was apparently passing into unknown territory.
Importantly for this weekend, apparently these ‘Southerners’ know how to party better than those in the north… and given my experiences of just a few hours, I would say that this seemed to be true.
Arriving in the centre of Breda, we were greeted by people dressed in all sorts – a grim reaper, teddy bears, nuns, policemen, cowboys… the list goes on. It was only just after lunch but everyone seemed already to be drunk and beer was flowing as water. The town seemed effectively have shut-up-shop and headed to the pub-come-disco to dance a few days away.
Carnival was originally a Catholic tradition, to celebrate the days of freedom before the restriction of lent began. It has been celebrated in The Netherlands since the 15th Century. Although a lot of the internationals joining me for the traditional had something similar in their home country, it was a completely new and exciting experience for me.
Being honest, the parade was a bit of a let-down, it was one car touring round the centre. But the dancing and exciting atmosphere of mutual revelry made up for this! I soon got into the Dutch music, and even ended up dancing on the stage amid enthusiastic party-goers. Like Leiden’s October celebrations, the carnival filled up all the streets, so it was so exciting seeing the complete change in existence that the festivities brought.
If you’re planning on going next time, just remember some comfortable footwear- these Southerners seem able to dance for four days straight!
(Final photo from ISN Leiden).