Every year, all Leiden residents look forward to one day, the Leidens Ontzet festival (Relief of Leiden). Every year on October 3rd, people enjoy a city-wide party complete with food, games, carnival rides, and, most importantly, alcohol! It may be the only day of the year when Leiden’s large student population joins forces with the locals to sing the Leiden anthem or the October 3 song of ‘Rubberen Robbie’ in brotherly love.
Origin Of Leidens Ontzet
The Dutch were at war with the Spaniards in the so-called Eighty Years War a long time ago (1568-1648). This war, like all wars at the time, was about religion, independence, and power.
In October 1573, the Spaniards launched their first attack on Leiden. However, they were diverted by Lodewijk van Nassau’s Dutch army, led by Francisco de Valdez. Van Nassau was the brother of Dutch freedom fighter William of Orange. As a result, he had to assist his Spanish colleagues at the Mookerhei (near Nijmegen), where this Dutch crook was living.
On March 21, 1574, he was forced to abandon the siege of Leiden. But the Spaniards returned with 5000 men to lay siege to Leiden, and this time it lasted until October 3. Meanwhile, the people of Leiden were starving, and diseases were spreading throughout the city. Thousands died as a result of starvation and the plague.
Jan van Hout, the city secretary, and Jan van der Does, the commander of the troops, were both obstinate and refused to surrender to this Sangria-dude. It was a valiant battle, particularly when Mayor Van der Werf offered his arm as food to his starving citizens. Such self-sacrifice must be remembered forever…even if it is a myth.
The siege ended on October 3, 1574, thanks to William of Orange’s brilliant plan. He decided to expel the Spaniards by flooding the surrounding areas of Leiden by breaching the Dutch dykes.
When the surrounding areas were flooded in early October, the ‘Watergeuzen’ (water rebels) were making their way to Leiden to free the citizens. Because of the water and the Watergeuzen, the cowardly Spaniards panicked and fled like chickens – back to where they belonged.
People came out of their homes to see if the Spaniards had truly vanished. The Spaniards only left a porridge pot with hutspot (mashed potato and vegetable dish), while the Watergeuzen brought in herring with white bread.
All of the citizens went to the Pieterskerk first thing in the morning to thank God for the miracle. So, every October 3rd, we thank God for his efforts to this day and celebrate this miraculous moment by drinking and partying as much as we can.
3 Ways To Enjoy Leidens Ontzet Party
Consume Some Food
While the Leidens Ontzet holiday technically begins on October 3, most people start celebrating on the evening of October 2nd. On this night, Leiden residents eat hutspot (mashed potatoes and vegetables) before going out on the town for drinking and debauchery!
When you wake up from your hangover on October 3rd, you can go to the Waag for FREE herring and white bread.
After you’ve finished this “Dutch delicacy,” head into town to see the magnificent Taptoe parade with lights and fun performances.
Go On Some Rides
After stuffing yourself with Dutch delicacies, you should go to the city center funfair and lose your money trying to win a stuffed animal for your partner. You can eat churros and deep-fried doughnuts and go on roller coaster rides here, though you may want to do the rides first.
Get A Drink And Enjoy Some Fireworks
Then, while you’re a little tipsy or drunk, you can look at all the stages in the city where you can listen to all kinds of music, particularly those you don’t want to hear when you’re sober.
Then, just before midnight, enjoy a spectacular fireworks display at the Zijlsingel. After that, you can gradually move to a pub where everyone is hammered until the sun comes up.
If you can walk at the end of the evening, you can go to bed before picking up your herring and white bread (again) the next morning, October 4th. Then the excitement will be over, and you’ll have to wait another year to do it all over again!