“Honestly, the moment I was asked about my memories of carnival, tears spontaneously started to well up in my eyes,” Marjan van Ganzenwinkel (50) says, “it’s such a deeply rooted feeling!” As the daughter of a High Council member, she grew up with Eindhoven’s largest carnival association De Bolhoedjes (“The Bowler hats”); carnival is a part of life from the cradle to the grave in the Van Ganzenwinkel family. “I’ve been taking part ever since I was a child.” When she was four years old, she was dressed as an elf and was allowed to party with the crowd and have her wings pulled. “Yes, I’ve earned my bowler hats.”
Each year, she receives a new decoration, in the form of a small plastic bowler hat. “I have forty-six of them by now, the chain is very long. The prince decides the color each year. A true Bolhoed collects them and wears them every year.” And, as every carnival enthusiast at TU/e knows, Marjan is a true Bolhoed.
Not that she is an official member. “The association is actually a male stronghold. Ladies can become a member and are allowed to help, but they don’t get to decide anything. They can’t be appointed prince either; they can however become a court lady.” Nevertheless, she did spend many hours ‘knotting bowler hats’ as a volunteer - together with other daughters and partners. “Don’t forget, we’re talking about some six thousand bowler hats a year. You start well in advance with that, and you have to keep the color a secret all those months.”
Cradle to grave
Carnival plays a major role in the Van Ganzenwinkel family’s annual calendar, and in their life in general. “My father, Geert den Bolhoed, did everything imaginable for the club during a period of 55 years. He passed away in January 2019, and the full High Council stood around his coffin in uniform during the funeral service for a final carnival greeting.”
A dream came true when she got to play with her party band ‘XQSME’ in the large tent of the Bolhoedjes next to hotel Pullman at the Vestdijk. She repeated that home game - or ‘warm blanket’ as she also likes to say - about six times since then.
To her, carnival is a new beginning each year. “My passion is like a caged animal that has to wait until it is released. An infatuation that accumulates in my stomach. It creates energy, power and desire inside me, and it explodes on Saturday afternoon. That’s when it starts! And that tingling feeling lasts four days.”
She skipped carnival - by way of an experiment - only once. “That made me so dreadfully unhappy! Giving up carnival to go skiing is something I won’t ever do again.” A sin of one’s youth, she was only 22 at the time. Something else she tried only once, was celebrating carnival outside of Lampegat. “I was given the cold shoulder because I couldn’t sing along with the Limburg songs in Maastricht. I believe that we in Eindhoven on the other hand extend a warm welcome to people from above the rivers.”
This year, there’s nothing to choose from. Instead of celebrating carnival, she will be escaping Brabant and leaving for a cottage near the sea. Due to corona, her caged passion will have to wait another year before it is set free. “But things will get back to normal, I’m sure of that!”
Evie Nielen (23) and Lieke Hermsen (21), are members of TU/e's only carnival association. Although, GELIMBO isn’t an actual carnival association, but a fraternity that’s part of student association GEWIS. And it has a lot more to offer than just celebrating carnival. GELIMBO organizes activities throughout the year, such as drinks, escape rooms, baking pies, barbecuing, and a Dies Natalis meeting, but we won’t be talking about that here. Although it has to be said that during this meeting, which rather resembles a musical, the carnival prince is announced.
Part of life
Evie didn’t decide to join GELIMBO because of carnival, in all honesty, but because of the nice people. “It seemed like a nice group to be a part of.” GELIMBO’s carnival image didn’t stop her from joining. Growing up in Katwijk, a Brabant village of no more than 500 inhabitants on the banks of the river Maas near Cuijk, carnival was a part of life since her early childhood. Majorettes, the parade, the “pronkzitting” competition, you name it, she was there. And she has been celebrating carnival with GELIMBO for three years now.
Evie was part of the prince’s retinue twice during the tour of TU/e’s drinking rooms and office spaces. She still clearly remembers the fun they had when they subjected the Executive Board to a quiz during which the board members had to guess carnival songs. Cursor wasn’t there to witness it, but Evie says than Nicole Ummelen scored the most points.
Lieke isn’t a proper member yet, but a prospective member. “I wanted to become a member ever since my first year as a student, but I had set myself an impossibly high standard when I sat down to write the motivational letter. I wanted it to be perfect.” Luckily, members of GEWIS are welcome to join GELIMBO during carnival, and Lieke has done so every time so far. “In 2017, I was the only first-year Applied Mathematics student who came along to Maastricht on Monday. That helped me quite a lot.”
Lieke, currently an Industrial Engineering & Management student at Fontys, finally found the inspiration for a motivational letter after carnival 2020. As a (prospective)member, she would be allowed to co-organize activities, her greatest wish. She was quite nervous about the outcome. When she finally got the phone call with the good news, she was asked to make a photo that gives an impression of just how happy she was. You can see the result here.
Unfortunately, she only got to organize an online version of carnival since then. “I was so looking forward to organizing carnival, and now we have to do it this way. Oh well, I’m someone who immediately likes to come up with an alternative. And I’m quite happy with it!”
For the first time in thirteen years, GELIMBO will be without a prince. The GEWIS fraternity accepted the situation and came up with a nice online program for all its members and a small number of partners. Kickoff will be on Thursday with bingo drinks, followed by a hangover breakfast on Friday morning. The best they can usually do in terms of cuisine on Saturday is a ‘kapsalon,’ an awful tasting fast food dish, on Stratumseind. This year, however, GELIMBO has a sausage roll baking workshop on offer. The highlight is on Sunday: instead of the famous “Stropdaskroegentocht” (Necktie pub tour), student carnival association GELIMBO will organize a “Stroptaskroegentocht,” with a bag full of surprise drinks for each digital café. Let’s fill those beer glasses!
To Brigit ‘I-know-something-fun’ Span (45), who works at the Communication Expertise Center, carnival is also about building a party for others. At carnival association De Dwèrsklippels in Nuenen, she organizes DolDwèrs, a party evening with carnival performers and the Dwèrse Babes Bingo. On top of that, she’s co-responsible for the association’s communication. The story behind the association’s name, and it’s honorary nickname Nuenen Dwèrs, is as follows: “The story goes that there was once a construction worker who wanted to enter a room carrying a beam crosswise. ‘Aren’t you a cross one,’ they say in Nuenen, and that headstrong mentality suits me quite well actually.”
The ResiTENTie, the association’s annual tent on the Van Gogh square in Nuenen for teenage carnival, is where DolDwèrs usually takes place on Friday. The party attracts some 1,500 carnival goers. “I spend all night welcoming performers with my workgroup, and making sure that the program takes place as planned. I really get goose bumps when I see people in a crowded tent jumping from left to right when Snollebollekes performs (see the video - in Dutch - below, featuring Brigit from 02.09 min.). Or when I see people go wild during the many other acts during DolDwèrs.”
The text continues below the video.
‘Any eggs left?’
On Saturday, after the others had a fun party, carnival starts for Brigit. Her home in the city center is often the place where things start and end for friends and friends of friends - and sometimes even perfect strangers late at night. “I always make sure that I have plenty of double yoke eggs on stock during carnival. My partner Boudewijn bakes the eggs every evening. When the front door is open, people sometimes stop by unannounced. At night, our house is often filled with hungry carnival goers. Sometimes we don’t even know who some of the people sitting at our table are.”
“What I probably miss most this year, is the excitement and anticipation I share with my carnival partner in crime Margo. Thinking about the outfits we can make, and dreaming about the beautiful outfits we will never be able to make. We spend hours working together in the evenings, mostly with a glue gun, because we hardly know how to sew. We put on carnival music, we laugh, sing along, talk. The fun of anticipation!”
Brigit tries to pass on the feeling of carnival - ‘being together, having fun, working towards something’ - on to her children, just like her parents did with her. It appears that she was successful. “All three of our daughters are member of the dance guard. The youngest is the only one I haven’t seen on the podium yet; she was supposed to make her debut this year. Our middle daughter, Suus, was elected youth princes carnival last year.”
Brigit will all but skip carnival 2021. “To me, carnival should be live, not online. I’m online all day long, it won’t feel like relaxation anymore. Carnival is about seeing each other, feeling, hearing, and yes, even smelling. I want to dance along to a catchy tune in a crowded café until I can dance no more, I want to shout along with the music. It’s a feeling, an itch that won’t go away until the DolDwèrs stops burning.” That icon, a hollow beam of several meters length that Brigit’s neighbor makes every year, is carried to the church square on Tuesday night, where it is set on fire at midnight. That’s when most people go home, but Brigit and her friends continue to party for a few more hours.
“The energy I get from that during those five days will last me an entire year. How I will make do this year? I don’t know. It’s not the end of the world, of course, and it’s shared sorrow. Nobody celebrates carnival this year, so you don’t miss anything. I’m just looking forward to November when the new prince(s) is announced and the new carnival season starts. That’s when I’ll start to feel that itch again!”
Professor of Biomedical Materials & Chemistry Patricia Dankers (42) didn’t just obtain PhDs in chemistry at TU/e and medical sciences at the RUG, she also graduated in “Keijology” (Keijologie - “kei” meaning “stone” in Dutch) at the University of Keijology in Helmond. “It’s unique that we have a carnival university here, I believe that there are two more in the Netherlands, but I wouldn’t even know where,” she says with pride.
Obtaining her PhD was quite an experience, and it happened at the urging of carnival friends. “Hey you, professor - that’s how they’ve been calling me ever since I became a student - isn’t it about time that you got your PhD?” she often heard. And yes, it seemed like a fun idea to her to stand on a podium for once, instead of in front of one. She wrote a thesis titled Making a Hellemonder, or the making of a Hellemonder and became a proper Doctor in Keijology - not far removed from her own expertise - in 2018. She entertained 700 people for forty minutes.
Applying for a PhD position
But in order to secure a PhD position, she first had to show a Bewijs van ermoei (“Proof of poverty”) a year earlier, during a half-hour sketch. “You have to explain just how impoverished and miserable you were during your childhood in Helmond,” Patricia explains. The next year, in 2019, she was expected to hold a short after-dinner speech (skottel reej), prior to the ceremony for the doctoral researcher who was to succeed her. “You wouldn’t do it if you know in advance how much time that will cost,” she says, but she didn’t regret it for a moment.
Her thesis is filled to the brim with jokes, and she introduces herself as perfessor in de skaaikunde (professor in chemistry), not to be confused with a perfessor in de Nep Leer (meaning both fake science and artificial leather or skai), as ‘many Hellemonders think.’ The first of her 11 statements: ‘If humans once crawled out of the primordial soup four billion years ago, the plastic soup will probably beget an inflatable doll within a few years’ time.’
She has been celebrating carnival at the Keijebijters in Helmond for years. Whenever possible, she joins her husband during the five Saturday evenings of the so-called klets tournament with tonproaters. She played the clarinet at the Keizelkeikes Hermenieke from the age of fourteen, and later at Court chapel De Klinkers, until she could bring her children (currently 6 and 8) with her to carnival. She was so busy with that during the past two years that she couldn’t also play a musical instrument at the same time. She did however provide the music with her chapel during fifteen Carnival University ceremonies.
Patricia lives in De Grote Overbrug, a hamlet of four farms and two villas. The inhabitants founded Carnival association Federation De Grote Overbrug together a few years ago. “We built a float twice already, very simple, but lots of fun. We made a Golden Bridge on the first one, to show that we live in paradise. The second float couldn’t make it to the finish of the parade because of the storm. Naturally, we didn’t build anything this year.”
A one-year break
“Corona is certainly bad news for everyone, but it’s terrible for people who celebrate carnival. That feeling only gets worse now that I’m talking about it. It’s such a wonderful event. We always look forward to it for weeks. Last year, people made carnival jokes about the coronavirus, which had just reared its head in China, but now we don’t laugh anymore.”
Carnival will be extra fun when it returns, she expects. And that special kei (boulder) in Helmond will also be taken out of the ground again. “It was made by human hands, stays underground all year, but is brought to the surface with a machine on Saturday afternoon, as a starting signal for the festivities. It returns underground on Tuesday evening at 23:11 hours. I always witness that moment.”
Study advisor at Industrial and Applied Mathematics Jet Verbeeten, who turns 31 tomorrow, was also brought up with carnival. To her, it’s something you mostly celebrate with your family. With uncles, aunts, nephews and nieces; if they no longer live on their native soil, they return for carnival. And yes, she has seen her parents drunk. Fellow students in Enschede asked her about that with big eyes, and she immediately explained to them that this happened every year, but that carnival really isn’t just about beer. “It’s so much more than that!”
She grew up in Vierlingsbeek. The village is only just located in Brabant, but when it comes to carnival, its people behave more like Limburgers. In fact, she needs to think for a while when asked about Vierlingbeek’s name during carnival (Keischietersriek), because that’s so very typical of Brabant. In Limburg, they don’t change the names. But they do write beautiful songs there. When she was nineteen years old, she and her mother wrote a song that was performed by the Court chapel. “Last year, the prince’s orchestra had to learn thirteen new songs, made by the people. In Brabant, on the other hand, the music isn’t different from what’s played during après ski.”
If she isn’t partying in Vierlingsbeek (every Friday at carnival), she prefers to go to Venray. She doesn’t think about what to wear and bring along until a few days before Monday’s parade. “I always walk with my mom. She is a creative therapist and we have more than enough material at home, and the shops are also open on Sundays. In 2017, we still had time to go to the hardware store to pick up some stones.”
“In 2017, the village was very preoccupied with Trump, who had just had been elected president. You also have to understand that there’s a healthy rivalry between the villages Vierlingsbeek and Overloon, which are separated by a highway. Mom, my brother Jaap and I took part in the parade pushing a wheelbarrow filled with stones for a wall between the two villages. It took a while before people standing by the road got the joke, but once they do and begin to laugh, that’s such a great feeling!”
It’s usually the local politicians who are mocked. A current topic on the political agenda involves a municipal reorganization, and that’s another reason why Jet is disappointed that there won’t be a parade this year. She could have worked with that. She would be very unhappy if Vierlingsbeek’s only hall was to disappear should the new municipality have its way. “Where else should we go on Friday evening to celebrate carnival?”
Every year has the same pattern. “Traditionally, we always have dinner at our home on Monday evening. With a large group, made up of whoever happens to be there when we get hungry.”
Tuesday is a special day as well. “In the past, I would go from bar to bar in Cuijk, but these days I’m pretty tired at that point. “I lie on my sofa, watch parades on television and spend most of my day deciding whether I should go out or not.” She once spent a Tuesday afternoon in the lecture halls at the University of Twente, where she studied educational science. “The fact that I couldn’t be at home made my stomach ache. That’s something I’ll never do again, I realized.”
Cursor: “Do you have pictures of carnival?”
Maurice: “I certainly do!”
Cursor: “What do they show?”
Maurice: “Freedom from care.”
During the five-day carnival celebrations, Maurice de Turck (51), support assistant at IMS Services, sheds all heavy burdens. He frees himself from daily routine and feels that he can go crazy in a good way, without being called into account by anyone. “It has a very relaxing effect.”
Once but never again
Like Marjan van Ganzenwinkel and Jet Verbeeken (see above), he missed out on carnival only once. He, too, was still young, but it wasn’t his choice. “I couldn’t take part because of a knee operation. I still lived with my parents, and I asked my mother to close the curtains because I didn’t want to see the dressed-up people in the streets. To me, it’s all or nothing. I didn’t even watch the parade on television.” Since then, Maurice has celebrated carnival 35 times, and he makes sure that everything is properly arranged. Four layers of clothes, a ride home with a taxi; he doesn’t get sick.
Maurice takes part in the festivities with his group of friends, or he goes out into Lampegat and surrounding areas with his ten-member band. He plays the bass drum at Bloco Barulho, which means something like ‘small group of noise.’ They go from podium to podium in a van for performances that last thirty minutes. Making music with a band is a quite different experience than taking part in the festivities as an individual, he realized that year when he went out into the city with this girlfriend. “That’s when I saw how a core group of people from Lampegat enthusiastically organizes activities. And for once I could stay and talk to people, instead of immediately having to get into the van on my way to the next podium to play in some other carnival city.”
His group of friends, D’n Blauwe Emmer (‘The Blue Bucket’), has a special origin story, in which a blue bucket plays a role, naturally. We could write about that in great detail, but we’ll stick to a few key words: soccer team, Oktoberfest in Munich, emotions about reorganization of soccer team, and blue buckets in the corners of hotel rooms. “We founded a so-called ‘Genietschap’ when we got home, decided on the name, bought blue jackets in the V&D, ordered tailor made blouses in Thailand (they still wear them, but they are no longer tailor made), bought lederhosen in Roermond, and had a nice logo designed.”
That was almost eleven years ago, and D’n Blauwe Emmer has by now awarded thousands of decorations in the form of a pin with a small blue bucket and a date. For those who would like to join: membership is possible only after you took part in the Munich Oktoberfest celebrations with them …
Maurice has the feeling that the carnival experience isn’t that present among students at TU/e, despite the fact that the university has its own student carnival association, GELIMBO. “You only see that GEWIS fraternity on Friday before carnival, when they visit all the TU/e offices. And I think that’s a great shame, especially for students who don’t come from Eindhoven and who are quite interested. Carnival is more than ‘we get dressed up, drink as much beer as we can in the shortest possible period of time, and drive home on our bicycles.’ That’s how people from above the rivers think they should celebrate carnival. I wish the Lampegat experience on students.”
Maurice isn’t a member anywhere, so far, but he is a fan (and contributor) of D’Haone. “This will be a strange year. D’Haone and other associations have much online activity, and the carnival mass will also be held digitally. I’ll probably watch that from my warm bed.” Not as much fun of course, but carnival will return in its former guise, that he is certain of. “And we just might be celebrating carnival in the summer. Who knows?”