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Monday, February 11, 2008

Carnival in Oosterhout

During the first weekend of February I had the chance to experience my second carnival while living in the Netherlands: Carnival in Oosterhout. Oosterhout is a small town in the South of the Netherlands that is close to Breda. And it is the home town of my friend Joost.

For the ones who don’t know, carnival is a festivity linked to Christianity. It finished with “Mardi Gras”or Fat Tuesday, which was the last day where meat was allowed to be eaten before Lent. Lent is the 40 day period where traditionally Christians were not allowed to held parties and were not allowed to have meat; the forty days of Lent serve to commemorate the Passion of Jesus.

Several of you might think that because I come from Latin America we must have some kind of carnival like in Brazil (I have been asked that several times)…let me disappoint you but no, we don’t have such tradition. There are some carnivals within Peru, that date back several centuries, but I'm not familiar with them. However, in Lima we do have a “particular” tradition: every Sunday during the month of February water fights are allowed between men and women. It’s usually among younger people and normally you should agree with your friends to”play carnival” and you can have waterballoon fights, watergun fights….then it’s quite nice. Then again…that’s what it’s meant to happen but there are unfortunate incidents when guys you don’t know decide they can suddenly throw water to you when you are nicely dressed up during the week on your way to work…and you have to be thankful if the water is clean :-s
So it’s definitely something totally different. And of course also bare in mind that February is the warmest month over there!

I have celebrated carnival in 2 other countries: Italy (back in 96 in a beautiful town in Sicily named Taormina where I watched a really beautiful parade) and also in the USA (back in 05 when I went to visit Antonella and went to the “infamous” Mardi Gras party…where guys are supposed to give you bead necklaces in exchange for kisses…over there there’s not flashing of tits as in New Orleans!). Back in 2001 when I was living in Brussels I went to the south of the Netherlands, in Maastricht for their famous carnival…and that’s about it for me and carnivals.
Then 2 years ago, Joost invited me to Oosterhout and I had the time of my life dressed as a lioness ;-) and then this year Italo and me were invited.

We were told that the town had been partying since Friday evening and the celebrations would go on until Wednesday. So all shops are closed and in general the town is all festive. What I found nice about this is the “tradition” feeling. For a start EVERYBODY was wearing a costume…and not just a mask or a cape…people had some serious outfits on regardless of age. You could see kids and over 80 year old grannies all dressed up and partying.

We arrived on Saturday afternoon and after a nice dinner at Joost’s place with his parents, his sister (Inge) and some friends we got ready and off we went into town. Italo, Joost and me had spent about an hour that morning in a costume store in Amsterdam trying to decide what costume to get…and we decided to wear matching costumes: so we were the Devils for this carnival ;-) We bought some nice horns that had batteries and that lit up, a nice trident and a very interesting tail. The guys went for the red shirt and jeans approach…I tried to go for the “sexy devil” look and added a red boa, net stalkings and some long black gloves which lasted about half an hour… We definitely were not wearing the most elaborate costumes, but after our make up (nice devil beard for the guys and some serious sparkly eye shadow and a passion red lipstick for me) we definitely blended in with the crowd!

That night was the busiest one I was told…and indeed the bars were really crowded. We left our coats in the first bar and then we did some bar hoping…which on a temperature of below 0 degrees, net stalkings and bare arms was not good for my health. Once in the bars the music was unbelievable. The music was really festive, and some had really nonesense lyrics…but it was carnival music, funny and it had some kind of tradition so it was just perfect. You can listen to what I mean by actually viewing a video by clicking here.

On Sunday at 1pm we went to one of Joost’s friends’ b’day. Her parents live in a house right in the centre of the town where the parade was going to make its way through. When we arrived the party was already in full mode: people were already seriously drinking beer and dancing all around the house. We joined the party, watched the parade and at around 4pm we joined Joost’s parents, sister, neighbors and friends in a bar…that place was UNBELIEVABLY crowded…music was loud, beers were drunk at a really fast pace…and themost amazing: teenagers, toddlers, young people, parents and grand parents were all partying together...

We partied until about 6pm when we went back to Joost’s parents place, we changed, had dinner and made our way back to Amsterdam.

It was a really really nice weekend, it was very good for my Dutch language skills and something that I definitely want to do again.

Thank you very much Joostje for the invitation and thanks to you and your family for being such great hosts ;-)


Anonymous said...

dude, como es eso q en el 95 pasaste Mardi Gras en Aspen??? 2005 Dear! me encanto tu blog entry, as always. un besito y sigue escribiendo SIEMPRE!!! ya algun dia seguire el mio, tal vez shortly, falta un poquito de motivacion... pero ya llega creo ;)

Vitor said...

Sounds like it was a lot of fun! Of course, the south of Holland is quite different then the rest of the country :-)
And I can only imagine the success of Devil Cate with her devilish boys scouting up the town!
Really cool idea from Joost to get you guys to experience all that :)