If you are an expat in the south of the Netherlands, you may already have been witness to the age old tradition of carnaval. Although to the average expat it must seem like it’s all about dressing like an idiot and drinking in the street, it is actually a festivity with many customs and rules that go back a long way. One of the traditions surrounding carnaval is, every year carnaval clubs elect a prince. For the period of a year leading up to carnaval this man is literally the prince of his club or in the case of Johan Vlemmix prince of a city. To add extra value to this tradition the Prince of Carnaval is offered the key to the city by the mayor himself.
This year Johan Vlemmix is the prince of carnaval for the city of veldhoven. Johan is well known in Eindhoven, as well as the rest of the country. He is known to be a kindhearted, eccentric fun loving man. It’s not just carnaval that makes him tick, he was a royal family enthusiast for many years and created his own replica of Soestdijk palace. He is also a musician and has produced many comical songs.
This year Johan will also launch a carnavals song: Koning Carnaval (King carnaval). As a true Prince of carnaval he will promote his song, at several parties, tv shows and festivities. Over 300 new carnaval songs come out yearly, and it seems the competition is killing. Especially with our southern neighbours in Limburg, however Johan has managed to get a spot on a local tv show as the only performer not from Limburg himself.
When we ask about his plans to make carnaval great this year in the town of Veldhoven, he tells us his plans. His idea is to break many funny records that reference to carnaval and the people of Brabant in particular. He will attempt to break the world record of “Brabants” kissing. People in Brabant seem to give each other three kisses on the cheek every chance they get, even when they introduce themselves!
Obviously being the Prince of carnaval also means having ceremonial duties, Johan has to present the parade and declare the start of carnaval. While doing this he will wear a special colorful robe along with his court ladies.
Johan isn’t new to the whole carnaval game, he is an honorary member of many carnaval clubs, and has been on tour with the former Prince of Carnaval from Eindhoven. This year he will make his own tour, promoting his song and bringing life to the party everywhere. This is in line with his message to expats who want to take part in the festivities. Johan: “Join the party, carnaval is a special celebration that is all about being with friends, making new friends and belonging. Carnaval is about including everyone, no matter who you are or where you are from”.
He also has some advice for the expats who wish to venture out, and explore carnaval. “Step into carnaval with an open mind, a good mood and a happy face. Also make sure you dress up in something ridiculous, special or funny, don’t be ashamed, neither are we! Apart from the fancy dress make sure you wear warm clothes under your outfit, Dutch weather does not go well with drunk people. If going out on your own seems a bit daunting, just bring your own friends te get in the mood, I don’t doubt by the end of the day you will all have made new friends”.
Fun facts about Johan you never knew!
Apart from Johan being a professional at living the good life, and being fun in general he is actually a nuclear survival consultant. He is an expert at nuclear bombshelters, gas masks and survival packs.
Most expats will know Veldhoven and ASML, when ASML was still brand new and not nearly as large as they are now, Johan hosted their very first employee party at his Soestdijk palace.
Johan enjoys throwing the party, so much more than being a party guest.
Everything aside, Johan wishes you all the best of fun this carnaval!
Text: Stephania Kipperman
Pictures: Martijn van Grevenbroek