Carnival in Maastricht

Carnival is a three day party that folks in Maastricht celebrate before Lent. For some, it’s a little more than three days, for others it’s a little less. Either way, people appeal to the heart of it all by dressing up in costumes of all shapes and colors.

Last Sunday I put on thermals and thick wool socks beneath a bright blue track suit. My roommate sported a green one to match. My costume made me feel goofy and wonky and not at all to be taken seriously. Yet I never felt out of place.

There was an expectancy about the folks preparing for carnival. I’d heard it in their voices inviting me, weeks in advance, to the party. A little laughter, probably saved from past carnivals, would brighten a Dutch girls’ eyes and widen her smile to explain how everyone goes out every year and that I just had to be there. I suppose I felt obliged to see the Maastricht people, their costumes and customs, and raise them my own participation.

“You can’t understand carnival,” said one man outside a bar in the square. He was dressed as a pirate and leaning on the tall table next to him, his brother in prison garb. Three-quarters of a pint left in his slender glass clinked against his costume rings and he took a hearty swig.

The vegetable vendor, he said, represents the beginning of carnival. I looked over my shoulder at some colorful figure in the cobble square. Lots of people were crowding about to grab a waffle from a trailer and see her ascend.

It’s a symbol, the pirate explained, that means that all are welcome. And that there’s plenty to share.  In the past, the figure flew in the face of tough time the Maastricht people experienced together. Unemployment and economic woes seemed less daunting during the party. He continued, “when it’s Carnival’ I don’t care if you’re rich or if you are poor. I only want to know of you’ll haven fun.”

The rest of the day, I enjoyed the people in the square.  There was a sort of cordial resolve in the eyes of the painted faces, young and old. It was true in the sounds of the pop beats amplified and muddled with marching bands in the parade.

Many folks at Carnival last Sunday morning danced their dance, while a friend played the horn or boombox. A mother bundled her young in a bear costume, while others drifted about pubs and waffle stands with their friends.

For Carnival, folks opted to celebrate for each others sake.  And that solidarity with the people who dare to be excited for one another, made for a good time.

About the author:

My name is Jordan Corona. I’m a student from Texas. Much of this is year is new for me. Things like snow and tulips do not happen where I’m from. If you’re reading this, you’re either my mom or otherwise interested to hear some stories/reflections from a students perspective. Thanks for reading.