Your Guide to Carnaval: Costumes and Halfvasten
One of the most pivotal parts of Carnaval are the costumes that people wear. I think the best way to describe it to an American is simply; Halloween on steroids. People dress up like superheroes and their favorite TV characters, but a lot of other costumes also make absolutely no sense. Everything goes!
Traditionally, you would wear the same costume for all 5 days. However, it has become much more common to switch up your outfits from night to night since after a couple of hours you will be covered in sweat and smell incredibly gross. Coordinating groups costumes are also popular, with whole friend groups dressing up together, though solo costumes are just as prominent.
This year, my friends and I dressed up as the Spice Girls for a night. I was Scary Spice, Harmke was Posh Spice, Jetske was Ginger Spice, Sterre was Baby Spice, and Jonna was Sporty Spice. For the parade, on Sunday and for Monday night I dressed up as a bee. Some of the other memorable costumes were Hawaiian tourists, gladiators, German lederhosen, and old men as ballerinas. Nevertheless, my favorite costumes were definitely the ones where you could tell the person had just put on every piece of colorful clothing they own at once. A bright onesie, huge hat, ski goggles, etc. were some of the most fashionable outfits.
Schmink, or face paint, is also a staple in many Carnaval costumes. I hesitate calling it face paint because when I think of face paint, I think of people drawing on their faces before football games and school events. Carnaval schmink is much more intense. Compared to what I’m used to, it’s much more intense and takes quite a bit of time to do. For example, I had my whole face painted to resemble a deer in a halfvasten parade.
That brings me to halfvasten. Just when you thought Carnaval was over, it starts all over again with halfvasten. 20 days after the end of Carnaval, which is halfway through lent, the Dutch celebrate. Nowadays very few people celebrate lent so the halfway celebrations are more just another reason to throw a party. In the olden days when the Netherlands was a highly religious country, halfvasten was a weekend to let loose and celebrate the coming Easter once again.
I also had the opportunity to be part of the Halfvasten Optocht (parade) in Oss this weekend. My face was fully painted and I wore a huge deer head, something that I was originally very skeptical about. The parade was almost as big as the parade during Carnaval, and all of the floats and acts were just as elaborate. Carnaval music was blasting from every speaker and people were once again dressed up. I’m really glad that I got the chance to be in the parade because it definitely gave me an opportunity to be a part of the celebrations and, if nothing else, was a really fun day.
While I could definitely use a little break from all of the festivities, I will definitely be making my way back to the Netherlands in the future. If I just so happen to visit around February/March, you’ll know the real reason why...