Carnival for dummies: This is what you need to know when celebrating carnival

When you talk about carnival, everyone below the rivers starts cheering and jumping like crazy. While the rest of the Netherlands looks at you as if you’re not quite right. Carnival, you love it or you hate it. For the people from above the rivers who will celebrate carnival for the first time, I have listed all the do’s & don’ts regarding carnival, so you won’t miss the boat.

Don’t dress up or dress stupidly

If you want to be sure you will be looked at strangely during carnival, don’t dress up. Or just don’t dress originally. The diehard carnival revelers will pick you out if you haven’t done your best for ‘their’ party of the year. This differs per carnival city, because in Oeteldonk (Den Bosch) it is customary to wear a simple peasant smock.

Moreover, you can also go for the colors of the respective carnival city, because then you can be sure that you are right, such as in Oeteldonk with the colors red, white and yellow or in Kruikenstad (Tilburg) green and orange.

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How do you dress up for carnival?

Basically, anything goes with carnival. You can choose how you dress up. It is nice to be a little original dressed up for carnival, but here are some ideas. You can think of:

  • Different kinds of professions, like for example doctor, nurse or fire department
  • Superheroes, like Zorro or Superman
  • Animals, for example dog, cat or pig
  • Figures from the past, dress up as someone from the hippie era, for example. Circus characters, such as clown or magician
  • Fairy tale characters, for example fairy, witch or robin wood
  • It is also always fun to dress up as a theme with your friends. With carnival, you choose a theme and you all dress up according to that idea.
  • In short, there are many options. With the right carnival clothes you can look like your hero.

How do you get your carnival clothes?

A little creativity will get you a long way. First you need to think of what you want to be dressed as. Then you have to figure out how to get that carnival costume.

First look in your own closet or that of your parents. Or maybe there are boxes of old carnival clothes (Dutch: carnavalskleding) in the attic that are suitable for your carnival outfit.

If you want to dress up as someone with a certain profession, as an example nurse. Look around and see if you know someone who might have a nurse’s outfit that you can borrow for carnival.

You can also choose to make your own costume for carnival. If you are creative, you can get very far with a few fabrics and a sewing machine.

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Buying clothes for carnival in a store or on the internet

There are several stores that offer whole carnival costumes (Dutch: carnavalspakken) for sale. The advantage of this is that you have a lot of choice. There is bound to be something you can wear for carnival. You also don’t have to figure out how to dress yourself. All you have to do is look at all the carnival costumes available and decide what you like best.

Another advantage of a costume store is that it looks neat and tidy. If you make something yourself or just grab something from the closet, chances are that it just isn’t it. After all, it is annoying when you are dressed up as something and go out on the streets at carnival and no one really knows what you are. With a real carnival costume you don’t have that problem.