Saturday before Pentecost: little wagons and a lot of noise? Sunday of Pentecost: dirty windows? LUILAK DAY!
Luilak, or Lazybones Day, is a youth festival celebrated in Zaandam, Haarlem, Amsterdam and other towns in the western Netherlands. The celebration begins at four o’clock in the morning on the Saturday before Pentecost, when groups of young people awaken their neighbors by whistling, banging on pots and pans and ringing doorbells and making themselves generally obnoxious. Any boys or girls who refuse to get up and join the noisemaking are referred to as Luilak, or “Lazybones”.
The origin of Luilak
There are various interpretations of the origin of the Luilak festival. Doubtless the traditional ceremonies of noisemaking began in pagan spring fertility rites, now long forgotten. In popular thinking the name Luilak goes back only to 1672 and a watchman named Piet Lak. The legend is that Piet fell asleep at his post, while French invaders entered the country. The inhabitants scornfully nicknamed the man “Luie-Lak” or “Lazy-Lak”, which in time became Luilak. From then on, all lazy ones who are still sleeping when they should be up and about, receive the uncomplimentary epithet of Luilakken.
Haarlem and Zaandam
In Haarlem and Zaandam children celebrate Luilak by making little wagons, often shaped like boots and decorated with branches and thistles, known as luilakken. Pulling the wagons over the cobblestone streets can generate enough friction to set the wheels smoking. The children then either watch while their luilakken go up in flames or else dump them in the canals.
Haarlem celebrates Luilak with the celebrated Whitsun flower market in the Grote Markt at midnight. At midnight the bells of Saint Bavon’s ring out and floodlights play across the market square. The scene is enchanting. From midnight until eight in the morning Grote Markt is a coloured kaleidoscope. Also the flower day and night market along the Raamsingel and Raamvest is worth to experience. Stall after stall of spring flowers stretch out in rainbow profusion. An impression in the video below.
A culinary tradition: Luilakbollen
In many parts of the country Luilakbollen, or “Lazybones Cakes,” traditionally baked in the shape of fat double rolls and served with syrup, are a specialty of the season.