At the heart of the city
Originally a medieval national holiday, the tradition has today developed a carnival personality complete with cross-dressers, a dragon dance and lots of food and drink, attracting thousands yearly for ye olde celebrations. According to local folklore, it was the only day in the medieval calendar when the regular public could hunt wild deer (harts) – a sport traditionally reserved for the nobility. This game was then roasted on big barbecues and eaten in the streets.
Medieval with a modern twist
Thankfully deer are no longer hurt in the making of Hartjesdagen but its medieval spirit lives on in ostentatious costumes – or rather, women dressed as men and vice versa. You could say it’s a city that likes to wear its heart right where you can see it.
The programme traditionally starts with the Night of Romance (Nacht van de Romantiek), featuring cabaret acts and live performances at cafés in and around the Zeedijk. Entertainment on Sunday includes local bands, folk choirs and operatic performances. In the evening there's also a special market and celebration, with food and drink served on long tables along the Zeedijk. These festivities continue throughout the Monday, which is when the glamour kings and queens truly get to shine and strut their stuff!
Visit the Hartjesdagen website (in Dutch) for more information.