I will start by saying that I’m never too excited to celebrate American Halloween in October. The torturous pursuit of finding and selecting a costume is always burdensome as I always want to select an ensemble that is unique and somewhat relevant. Nonetheless, I always seem to concede and settle for a fairly basic getup. Bill, on the other hand, has figured it all out. About 5 years ago, he purchased a costume from a seasonal Halloween store. It’s simple, comfortable and surprisingly a crowd-favorite. It’s a taco and Bill has worn it for the last 5 years for Halloween. So when we were packing up to move to the Netherlands, I saw him safely secure “the taco” (as he refers to it) in a moving box. I asked him, “Are you really bringing the taco to the Netherlands?” and without hesitation his reply was, “Of course.”
So now we have approached the end of February when people in Eindhoven celebrate Carnaval. Carnaval is a Catholic tradition celebrated a few days prior to Ash Wednesday and Lent. In 2017 it takes place from Friday February 24th until Tuesday February 28th. In the Netherlands, Carnaval is mainly celebrated in the South of of the country. So the northerners in Amsterdam may have all the fun during the majority of the year, but in February, the southerns get ready to party. While this is holiday has religious roots, you you won’t find many religious overtones these days.
During the days of Carnaval, every town has a new name and its own identity. Eindhoven becomes “Lampegat” which means light bulb town and refers to the history of Eindhoven as the first ever producer of light bulbs (Philips!). The colors for Eindhoven Carnaval are always orange and blue. The streets are decorated with orange and blue balloons, streamers and confetti are scattered through the streets and the city focuses its attention on music, dancing, and fun. There are parades in each town where floats line the streets and bands march together and play in the town squares.
Though many Dutchies from Eindhoven take off from work to enjoy the party during every Carnaval day, we chose to take it easy and only celebrate on Saturday. In the morning, we had some International friends over who were also ready to experience the party of Carnaval.
After a small pregame, we walked to the city center to watch the parade and then joined a Carnaval party at the Hub, which is a local gathering spot for Internationals. The Hub threw a Brazilian-style Carnaval party with Samba, Percussion, Live-bands, Caipirinha Cocktails, and a big dance party. Our Brazilian friends had a little taste of home and we really had the best time!
It has been a crazy weekend with Carnaval. There seemed to be activities for everyone, music everywhere, A LOT of drinks and seriously the funniest costumes around every corner. What surprised me most is people of all ages go out for Carnaval. Looking out my window this weekend, I saw an elderly man (who looked to be about 65) riding his bike in a bunny onesie. Believe me, in the last few days, I’ve seen it all!
Oh and by the way, whether we are in the U.S. or in Europe, “the taco” is still quite a popular costume. Bill’s decision to bring “the taco” with him to the Netherlands was confirmed and he even was stopped in the streets by strangers and asked to take pictures with them!
After my first Carnaval in the Netherlands, I can say that the Dutch’s tolerance for partying and drinking is quite impressive. While I could only party for 1 day of Carnaval, people were out everyday dancing and drinking in the streets until very late in the morning. In fact, on the last night of Carnaval I was awoken by noises outside around 4:30 AM. It was drunk people returning home from the party…on a Tuesday!