Carnaval in Maastricht – Vastelaovend in Mestreech
You must have noticed by now – the red-yellow-green flags in the shopping streets, stores with really weird clothes on offer and possibly a lot of noise on January 14th from a silly parade starting at the central station and winding it’s way to a packed Markt. For those of you who have been here longer it was clear: start of Carnaval season, the city’s Carnaval Prince unveiled!
No, Maastricht does not do November 11th, that’s when people from surrounding villages come and declare their start of the season. I guess most of Maastricht at that time is preoccupied with their costumes – we also do not do onesies of cows and pigs, bought off the rack by teens and students at the last moment. But that’s OK too, because the main thing is to participate; Vastelaovend is many things but it is emphatically not a spectator sport. We don’t care if you don’t know our local songs – we have a new one each year, so we can’t keep up ourselves – but we do care you have a great time by throwing yourself right into it all. Wear your shower curtain, borrow your grandfather’s wedding suit, stitch together a 1000 fluffy animals, anything and everything out of the ordinary is perfect. And if you can (pretend to) play a drum or a trumpet you can join the hundreds of ‘musicians’ everywhere!
Another point to clear up beforehand; ofcourse there is alcohol involved, but the point is not to drink yourself senseless as soon as possible. How do you think all those musicians and dancers and pranksters last for three days straight? Because that IS the point; to last, from the canon shots booming across the Vrijthof on Sunday, to accompany the hoisting up on her flagpole of the giant market woman, our Mooswief, to the lowering of said woman on Tuesday, midnight. The prince will have all his regalia taken from him and he will be carted off unceremoniously on a garbage truck, along with the Mooswief. And we stand there, in our thousands, and sing, and cry, and hug eachother, saying thank you for a great Vastelaovend and promising eachother to be back next year. And then we walk, slowly, sadly, to the tune of a funeral dirge, out from the Vrijthof in all directions, back to our homes. Exhausted, with sore feet, hoarse and drained, but not too drunk to know it is over…. Untill next year!
(photo credits: Maria Vatista)