This weekend it's fair time (kermis) in our small town. That requires a lot of explaining since Dutch fairs are way different than American fairs. No apple pies, pigs and crochet work, but a catholic mass, parades and lots of traditions.
Fairs in Holland usually take place at the end of the harvest times, so in august or september. They are traditionally catholic fests, which means they always start with Sunday Mass. The schutterij (shooting guild) is the most important organisation that puts up the fair. It's hard to explain what the schutterij is, but if you follow the link, there's a good article.
This weekend used to be the end of harvest (so no more hard work for a little while) and therefore a time to celebrate. Everybody is dressed up in their best clothes, houses are scrubbed inside and out, gardens and lawns in perfect order. After mass, people go to their parent's or grandparent's houses to eat soup and traditional salad. The kids don't go to school on Monday and Tuesday and most adults take those days off, too.
On Monday, contests are held to see who is the best at shooting cross bow and hand gun. The one who shoots the wooden bird off of the 10 ft high pole is elected Shooting King for the year and gets lots of honors. A parade goes to his house to pick him up, after which he and his Queen are taken to the fest tent in horse and carriage at the end of the parade.
On Tuesday there are games for the children like sack races and all 4 days there's a midway at the town square, right beside the tent.
Big thing is also the parties that are held in a big tent on town square. And yes people, this is Catholic Holland, so lots of beer will be served.. A band plays and it's a good time to catch up with people you haven't seen in a while (if the music isn't too loud).
My M is head of the division of the schutterij called the vendeliers (see pic, not of him but of a girl in our town's teenage squad of vendeliers). The vendeliers are sort of comparable to the flag squads some American schools have, only here its's adult men (and some women) who perform and do tricks with the flags. In the schutterij there are, among other things, also a brass band and a sort of drill team.
This morning we went to mass. It was beautiful to hear the band play and see all the people dressed up in their uniforms. No, I'm not a catholic, but I am proud to be a part of this town, where traditions are kept alive.