Two days ago it was the 11th of November. A Belgian friend of mine wrote to me that he went to Maastricht on a day trip that day because he had his Belgian holiday. Only, he found himself feeling very ‘odd’ and not at ease.
I had to smile and think “you silly, don’t you know about the Carnival madness over there”? He obviously didn’t. As many of the Dutch don’t really acknowledge the fact that more than half of Europe/World is remembering the First World War. Simply because The Netherlands was neutral during that war. Ok, the German Keizer was a refugee in Holland, as well as thousands and thousands of Belgian refugees. And the Dutch economy blossomed in those years. But in the national historical memory there is nothing about the Great War.
I read once an article about the fact that the First World War had a bigger impact on the differences between Flanders and Holland, than any other other significant historical event, even more that the Belgian independence in 1830. After living in Belgium for four years, and having a child going to the British school, I can completely understand that. When November comes it’s all about Flanders fields, the poppy flowers, Ieper, The Last Post and The long way to Tipperary. It’s all about the atrocities of the first modern war, the suffering, the loss. Read any of the interbellum writers, watch Downton Abbey or Broadwalk Empire, and the Great War is very very present. Not in The Netherlands. It feels kind of strange to me now… Maybe because I also like very much that period in history.
Back two days ago. The south of The Netherlands gets crazy (and waisted) over Carnival, choosing their Prince Carnival. I am watching from a distance, being updated on Facebook. The rest of the world celebrates Remembrance Day. And in a village nearby children walk door to door with lampoons singing “Sint Maarten”, getting sweets and rosy cheeks.
November 11, what a day! Choose your celebration…