Growing up in Leiden #2

Growing up in Leiden is all about traditions this time of year. On the 3rd of October (and the days preceding it) Leideners celebrate the fact that on the 3rd of October 1574, the town of Leiden was liberated after it had been under Spanish siege for months and the population nearly starved to death.

We celebrate this year after year in a celebration loaded with tradition. Children in Leiden learn that ‘3 oktober’ is about much more than going to the Lunapark, and coming home with toys won, and teeth aching from all the cotton candy they ate.

leidens ontzet 2015

For example,they share a meal of hutspot in school (mashed potatoes with carrots, after the food that was found by a little boy from Leiden after the Spanish soldiers had deserted their camps outside the town). They also join in a ceremony where schoolchildren all come together to sing songs about the history of 3 oktober. Many children also participate in a grand parade through town,a tribute to the heroes of 3 oktober 1574.

Tonight my eldest daughter participated in this parade, the taptoe. The youngest 2 spent some time on the historical fairground outside the Pieterskerk, and then waited on the side of the road for the parade to pass.

Tomorrow, we will go to the big, modern lunapark, and yes, probably eat some cotton candy too….but only after they’ve finished another plate of hutspot…homemade…..

leidensontzet 2

And I can’t help but wonder….look how important freedom is, how important it is to be safe, to have food on the table, to be able to move in and out of town freely, no soldiers waiting for you out there. It is so important to us, that we still celebrate this historical event, even after more than 400 years.  And I can’t help but think about all those people who are fleeing wars, or are living in cities under siege today…….

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