In the last month or so, we have been enjoying the celebrations in both Leiden and Rolefarendsveen (where the rest of the van Zoen family reside). The annual 3 Oktober festival in Leiden is a true example of the Dutch and their pension for partying.
The festival commemorates the anniversary of the 1573–1574 Siege of Leiden, when the Spanish Army attempted to capture the city. The Spanish had Leiden surrounded and no provisions could go in or come out. Food had run out after two months, and the mayor offered his own body for food in an attempt to keep morale up. The mayor was of course not eaten, but the sentiment worked, and the Spanish left the night of 2/3 October. Many thousands of the inhabitants had starved to death, so when the Dutch army entered the next morning they fed the city herring and white bread and later that day a feast of hutspot.
While I saved my first herring and white bread for another day, Piet made us a big pot of hutspot (serious Dutch comfort food) and then it was off to our first night of celebrations. What I thought would be a few beers with friends for a couple of hours, turned out to be dancing and singing in the center of the city until 2AM. In true Dutch music fashion, we belted to Oasis, the Beatles, some local Dutch music, and yes…The Spice Girls.
The following couple of days were spent enjoying a few of the events lined up each year including parades, street theater, pole jumping over canals, markets, and lots of music, dancing and beer.
I only made it to one parade, as it happened to pass by about 20 feet from my front door. It was a representation of Spanish culture, the history of 3 Oktober, and local groups and organizations.
Then of course, no Dutch festival could go without a carnival – or “Kermis”! We met up with Dave and Patrina (another Portland couple who happen to move to Leiden only one month before us!) and enjoyed the sights, sounds, and food of the Leiden 3 Oktober Kermis. Cram packed full of Leidenaren, we navigated our way through stopping here and there for deep fried delights such as poffertjes and oliebollen. We made out way to “The View of Leiden”, a ferris wheel boasting a wonderful view of the city and the festivities.
Needless to say we had a great time at our first 3 Oktober celebration as new residents of the great city of Leiden. Only a few weeks before that, I spent the day in Rolefarendsveen, or “de Veen” enjoying some of their own annual festival and Kermis. The festival in de Veen is organized by the municipality and always happens during the Orange Festival Week. It doesn’t have the same historical meaning as the festival in Leiden, but the party goers don’t have any less fun! The week includes festivities such as a pub crawl, lantern parade, balloon parade, crate stacking, and of course, the kermis. I joined in the early morning for the balloon parade!
Every child in de Veen writes his or her name and contact information on a card and attaches it to a balloon. The balloons are all released at the same time. My niece Manu’s balloon made it all the way to France in one week! Yeah sure, its probably not the best tradition for the environment, but I am pretty sure the Netherlands makes up for it in leaps and bounds in other ways.
Later I enjoyed watching the kids play games and throw their arms in the air on rides at the Kermis. I thought I could still handle fair rides, but the octopus ride and my stomach did not agree. It was all a blast and I can’t wait to join the celebration next year. Perhaps by then I will know some of the cheesy Dutch music and can sing along in chorus with the rest!