9 years ago I pulled on my dads old military outfit, died my hair orange and joined the 600 year old ritual – and world heritage – called Aalst Carnaval. It was the best and most satirical party I ever attended for three reasons.
Well satire off course! The carnival of Aalst is well-known for mocking local and world events. Satire, is even one of the ground rules for participating as a small group in the big parade. Few places in the world have so much freedom of speech as this carnival.
The king, political parties and yes even the church are made a laughing-stock.
2) The voil jeanetten
The costumes worn here are very different from Venice or Rio carnival. Don’t expect bombastic baroque dresses or samba dancers in thongs. At Aalst carnival young men dress up as women wearing corsets, prams, broken umbrellas, child carriages and bird cages.
Unlike what people think they have very little to do with transvestites but with an ancient tradition. Back in the early 1900’s poor men who couldn’t afford to buy a costume, simply dressed up in the ragged clothes their wives no longer needed. To top it off they used old accessories they found at home.
These men are therefore nicknamed The voil jeanetten.
3) Ajoin Music
Every carnival has its own type of music. Rio might have samba but Aalst has Ajoin Music. Popular songs get a proper rework in the local dialect and are used during the festivities. There are more than 3.000 carnival songs that will make you dance for three days. The party starts with a parade on Sunday and ends on Tuesday when the carnival puppet is put on fire.
So I might have explained why Aalst Carnival is the most satirical party in the world but that doesn’t make it the best does it now?
Well, absurdly Aalst Carnival is also the place where, 9 years ago, I met my wife-to-be.
Therefore it will always be the best party I ever attended.