Fijne Carnaval: Carnival Celebrations!

“Banan-genaam!”*

A Dutch stranger @ Carnaval
*Aangenaam means “Nice to meet you” in Dutch, so it was a play on words because I was dressed up as a banana!

Fijne Carnaval (Happy Carnival)! We had this entire week off to celebrate! Unfortunately for me, I got really sick on the Thursday before Carnaval, so I spent a good portion of the time just resting and trying to recover. Nevertheless, I did do as much as I could to get into the Carnaval spirit and celebrate as much as I could!

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Carnaval, it’s essentially equivalent to Mardi Gras in the United States (but a lot more fun!). It is primarily celebrated in Catholic/ historically Catholic areas, such as Brazil, Germany, Italy, and the southern part of the Netherlands. Lucky for me, I got to celebrate it in Maastricht! The festivities of Carnval were as follows:

Day 1: Ambtenaren Carnival- This is the Friday before carnival and people will literally go from work straight to the bars. Unfortunately, I was sick and stayed in bed instead of celebrating 😦

Day 2: Arrival of the Prince of Carnaval & Parades Galore! I went to see the parade with a few of my friends. When we got to the square where the parade was supposed to be, we saw this statue of a large vegetable woman (see pictures above). The Prins Carnaval (Prince of Carnaval) arrived following lots of bands and men dressed in kilts playing the bagpipes (did not think I would see that). All of the men in kilts stood around the vegetable lady (see above) while waiting for the Prince. While they were waiting in the cold, there were other ladies that were just handing out shots to all of them (which I guess is how they stayed warm that entire time).

Day 3: The BIGGEST day of Carnaval (Halloween on Steroids)- I dressed up as a banana (see pictures) and walked around the main squares of Maastricht. It reminded me a lot of a mix between Mardi Gras and Halloween. I saw the most extravagant costumes, with some people pulling out gowns and suits that looked like they were from the 16th century. Other people were dressed up in funny costumes like me, and others just wore lots of glitter and bright colors. Everyone was either dancing, drinking, or doing a combination of the two. The music they play at Carnaval was something else too. There was one song that has the same tune as “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” that confused the other Americans and I, but it definitely added to the festive atmosphere!

At night, it was a little bit gross because the streets were absolutely covered in plastic cups, beer boxes, and trash bags (but I guess it is all part of the experience). There were booths all night with carnival food (hamburgers and fries), which was a great way to end the night.

Day 4 & 5: Family Fun & Battle of the Bands- Magically, all of the trash from the night before disappeared and the square was turned into a kid’s carnival! Didn’t do much this day because again, I was under the weather. There are contests for a variety of bands. I also missed this day because I was on a train to the airport (stay tuned to find out where I went).

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