Carnival in Maastricht



The Nederlands




Carnival in Maastricht (Vastelaovend)

There is a pleasant mood in the city, the locals enjoy their festival with families and friends, but foreigners in costumes are welcome too.

Maastricht is the largest city of the province of Limburg, located in the southeast of the Netherlands between Germany and Belgium. Since the city as one of the few escaped the great bombing of the Second World War, there are many original historic buildings. However, more than for the monuments, it has become famous because the Treaty on European Union was signed here on 7 February 1992.

It is said that in Limburg, the life is better than anywhere in the country of the tulips. The mentality of its inhabitants is quite different from that one in the northern provinces. They are cheerful, friendly and enjoy a variety of pleasures, probably thanks to the Romans, who once built settlements on the River Meuse and brought with them typical Italian epicurism.

People of Limburg love good food, beer and entertainment - not to mention that Maastricht is also the capital of the Dutch carnival, called Vastelaovend.

Carnival season opens officially 11.11. at 11.11 am, but the most important are three days before Ash Wednesday - Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. (Though some start partying on Thursday).

Friday is the "Employee Day", the unofficial start when firm parties take place and colleagues strengthen their relationships in bars. So far in civilian.

On Saturday, at 1.11 pm people welcome Prince Carnival arriving at the Central station. After a ceremony to honour him; he leads a parade to the Market where he places a vegetable crown on the statue of the 'Mooswief' (the patroness of Maastricht carnival, the giant puppet of a vendor). The procession of artists and marching bands walks around a city; their task is to get everyone into a mood.

At 3.11 pm, Prince enters the City Hall and exactly like in the Middle Ages, the mayor symbolically hands him the keys to the city and the power. His Majesty is chosen from ordinary people - the exchange of the roles has always meant the possibility to be someone else for a moment and criticize the authorities with impunity. In the next days, Prince will rule the temporary Kingdom of Fools and his subordinates will symbolically greet him on the way from bar to bar by the triple Alaaf!

On Sunday, at 12.11 pm, finally there is the official opening held on the Vrijthof square protected by the majestic Basilica of Saint Servatius. Carnival starts by eleven shots fired by the cannon and by raising a Mooswief on a high pole. Old lady is the most important symbol of the festivities and is welcomed by the plaudits of the crowd. She represents the simple people and the exchange of positions - the one who was down is now up and vice versa. A three-day celebration of life, spring, beer and friendship begins.

Although originally a religious holiday, the carnival is nowadays an opportunity for a big street party. Maybe less for tourists than for locals which work on their masks and costumes for several months. Their purpose, however, is not to stun, rather to participate and make others laugh.

On Sunday morning, all of them head out to the Vrijthof square, filled with stalls with fries, donuts, beer and cotton candy. The bizarre situations occur under the eyes of dangling Mooswief. Here the Pope bites off the hamburger, there is the vampire toasting with the pirates. It is strange to see the ladybird drinking a bottle of beer. Elvis chats with the cheese and a bunch of fools in pink skirts walk the irons instead of dogs. The bright colors of the costumes shine, as the winter Maastricht is covered in whitish haze.

People meet family and friends, but also speak to tourists and make them welcome, no one is ruled out. It is important to respect the "dress code" - if you do not have a mask; a crazy wig, a funny hat or a painted face is enough.

In the afternoon, there is the Great Procession held, the parade of allegorical floats preceded by the Prince’s carriage. To tell the truth, as a stranger you don’t understand a lot because they react politically incorrectly to the events of the last year and criticize the local authorities or politicians. But if you already had a few drinks, you don’t care :)

The groups and individuals participate too, and also so-called "Zate Hermie", Drunken brass bands, which is a clear indication that the playing musicians always find time to sip some liquid refreshment.

All bars, cafes and restaurants are open, the entire city centre is transformed into a giant party, carnival-goers drink and have a good time until the late evening. Those who have cold may dance in front of the decorated shops, there are some bands walking through the streets and playing. However, though the Maastricht turns into a huge pub, you don’t see drunkards, no one is arguing or fighting. (At least this is my personal experience, maybe the nights are wilder.) The atmosphere is very pleasant; the Dutch enjoy life to the full.

On Monday, there is the Family Parade after which children are allowed to display their talents on the Vrijthof Square.

Tuesday is the day of the brass band competition, but also of sadness and emotions. At midnight, the carnival ends and the Mooswief returns to the ground, into reality. People of Limburg will not miss the last opportunity to have fun, but as the hour hands approach the twelve, they will slowly indulge in nostalgia. Another colorful celebration of friendship is behind them and they have to wait a year for the next one...

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