English / Living in NL


On 11 – 11, the 11th of November, de elfde van de elfde (the eleventh of the eleventh) is the start of Dutch carnival season.

Start of carnival season
Dutch carnival season begins officially every year at exactly 11.11 pm on 11 of November a carnival. The carnival itself will take place in Lent somewhere in March of April the following year. On 11 – 11 the carnival council consisting of 11 members (Dutch: Raden van elf, council of 11) kicks off the new season by holding their meeting where they choose the carnival prince. The council will then discuss their programme and activities from that date up until the carnival.

Carnival is originally a Catholic feast before Lent. In The Netherlands it is celebrated in the south. Look at the map. It is a stereotyping one but it is true I must tell you that. According to Dutchies, areas under the Rhine river are Catholics where carnival is celebrated. This is partly true as I live just under the river (on the map, above Little Havana, that red dot on the fruit pickers area). Nevertheless where I live locals celebrate carnival as well. For the real Dutch carnival, go down south and visit Breda, Raamsdonksveer, Tilburg, Den Bosch or better Maastricht.


Why the 11 – 11?
Apparently the number 11 had been a fool number in Germanic culture. During carnival one can act like a fool before the Lent. According to another theory, 11 is a foolish transgression of ten, the number of the Ten Commandments. It is finished. Then yet another theory says because 12 – 1: 11 would symbolize fullness, sacredness which makes eleven fool because it is just not perfect.

Here is another version of 11-11. When the French occupied The Netherlands in the 18th century, locals used the 11-11 to shame them. 11 or elf in Dutch might have been derived from égalité, liberté en fraternité, the three principles of French revolution.

Up until today locals would greet or scream alaaf to each other during carnival festivities. Alaaaf is a bastardisation of elf.

Dutch carnival and other West-European countries is different from that in Rio and Venice. This is a pic of a Dutch carnival prince. Prins_Carnaval_2015_DSCF5469
Pic from wikimedia.commons

Every year a new carnival prince will be appointed. He will be the master of ceremony during festivities. The proclamation of the chosen carnival prince on 11-11 during council of 11 meeting is a special event for locals.


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