Carnaval, Carnival, Carnivale in Maastricht

Carnaval is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during February. By origin it is a European festival. The feast became assimilated by the Catholic church and was celebrated in the three days before ash Wednesday and Lent. Nowadays the relation with religion has become less prominent. The core of modern day carnaval revolves around role reversal with a socially critical function. The 1st day of Carnaval is six weeks before Easter Sunday and the festivities last 3 days. 

Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which an overturning of the norms of daily life. So much for the Wiki-definition …what does it mean in real life?

Vastelaovend it is!

Carnaval: the Dutch either love it or hate it. Those who live in the southern provinces of Brabant and Limburg love it and celebrate it with passion. In Maastricht carnaval is called Vastelaovend. Virtually all businesses close in a three-day celebration of life, spring, beer and friendship, though in the province of Limburg there is an added element of poking fun at the government and politics. 
People get dressed up and go from café to café, singing songs, dancing and drinking. There is no need to be afraid of this being a local festivity at which strangers are not accepted: as long as you dress up (preferably also paint your face) you are more than welcome. Go to one of the (pop up) carnaval shops in the centre of Maastricht for your own dazzling carnaval outfit. Carnaval is the biggest event of the year in Maastricht and as an (exchange) student you cannot miss this!

Eleven is the number

In Germany and the Netherlands, the Carnival season is traditionally opened on 11/11 (often at 11:11 a.m.). In Maastricht there is a big event organised on the Vrijthof square by the Sjeng Kraft Kompenei.

Sources: Wikipedia en Maastricht University