So, I live in the Netherlands
In a city called Kaaiendonk
In the south of the country
It seemed, usually this isn’t Kaaiendonk
It’s usually called Oosterhout
But three days a year it gets new name.
Other dutch cities has their name changed, too.
They even change the signs leading into the town
But that’s insane
Think of the tourists
It must be double dutch to them.
So why would anyone do this?
The short answer is it’s done to celebrate Carnival,
the Western festival held just before the season of Lent.
But of course we can go a little deeper
The etimology gives us a hint to its purpose
The word Carnival comes from the Late Latin expression “carne levare”,
meaning remove meat
A reference to the upcoming in fasting penance of meat
And indicating Carnival status
The last chance to have a good party
The festival itself has pretty Christian origins.
With celebrations of the linking of the days
and the fertility of crops
Being adopted by the early church
and the same way as the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia
was adapted by christians to form Christmas
In the middle ages
Carnival was celebrated by performances, games, cock fights
人们以表演 游戏 斗鸡来庆祝狂欢节
And dressing up to mock authority figures.
Within the festivities
the reversal of social norms is an important theme here.
One of the key traditions of Carnival today
Is the mayor giving the key to the city to a Prince Carnival
And this was already practiced in the middle ages
In any case, the local authorities
will never very keen on the mocking
The festivities were banned by many rulers.
centuries old, don’t disappear as the rulers desire
This is doubly treated
when the rulers became Protestant
while their subjects remained Catholic
Carnaval, in the form now celebrated in Germany and the Netherlands today,
originates in the German Rhineland.
Under the Holy Roman Empire
Cologne was important and powerful
First as the seat of one of the three spiritual electors
And later as a free imperial city independent of the Archbishopric.
But with the city occupied by Napoleon
And later annexed by Prussia
Its free status was lost, along with its political importance.
The citizens wanted to celebrate their glorious past
and in 1823 organised the first Carnaval parade
to rival the extravagant entries of the Habsburg emperors
and mock the Prussians with the entry of
a prince in renaissance dress,
and accompanied by soldiers in 17th century uniforms
These traditions spread to
influence the carnival in the Netherlands.
particularly the nearby province of Limburg.
Today celebrate the Rhenish variant.
The tradition of changing the name of a city had Dutch origins however,
specifically in North Brabant
as part of the Burgundian Carnaval
As far as I can tell,
The tradition began in ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
The bishop of ‘s-Hertogenbosch tried to have the feast banned.
However, members of the middle class were less keen to see their party canceled.
They met in a bar behind the town hall
and concocted a plan.
The fashionable city would be renamed for three days as Oeteldonk
a lowly farming village.
The parade was held for the first time in the city
and attracted 28,000 visitors
The plan was wildly successful
And in later years
the Dutch Railways had to provide special night trains
To bring visitors home safely
Given this success
it seems inevitable that other cities would soon adopt the idea.
So, what do the names themselves mean?
Both Oeteldonk and Kaaiendonk end with “donk”,
The meaning of this is fairly straightforward,
It’s a dry hill in a swamp.
And indeed surrounding ‘s-Hertogenboschch was once swamp
This is after all the lowlands.
The Oetel from Oeteldonk is less clear
It’s sometimes said to mean “frog”.
And a frog is a carnival symbol for the city
However, it most likely comes from the family name
“Van den Oetelaar”
“Van den Oetelaar”
A common name from the nearby village of den Dungen
the birthplace of the Bishop whose ban caused the name change to begin with.
Kaaiendonk, like several other Dutch cities
Includes a variation of “kei” in its carnival name
This would normally mean “boulder”
But in carnival it doesn’t
Because of course it doesn’t
The Woordenboek der Nederlandsche Taal,
the Dutch equivalent to the Oxford English Dictionary
gives an old definition of kei as fool
A reference to Sir Kay of King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table,
who, according to the Woordenboek
was halfway between fool and hero
There are too many cities to list them all here.
But if you could what would you rename your city?
Let me know in the comments
And if you are a concerned tourist
don’t worry too much about the signs.
The other side of the road has the city’s standard Dutch name.
for you to contend with.
This video was made
with the help of great people like you on patreon.
The theme tune was by Richard Jones.
And as always thanks to everyone who supports the channel.
So, I live in the Netherlands