Putting a price tag on Carnival

As a tradition built on singing, drinking, dressing up and prancing around the city, Carnival is the perfect time to immerse yourself in Dutch “gezelligheid”. But throwing a province-wide party that lasts for three days must come with a price tag. What exactly does Carnival cost?

The annual celebration of Carnival is over. In the Southern cities of the Netherlands, hundreds of thousands of party-goers left behind a clatter of plastic cups, empty bottles, cigarette buds, and the stench of beer. While the streets are swept clean and life slowly returns to normal in the south of the country, tax payers in the north are traditionally shaking their heads and wondering who is going to pay for the cleanup of this Olympic-sized mess. On Tuesday, Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant made an effort to balance the books and determine just how expensive the celebration of Carnival is.

Sick or hungover?

Putting a price tag on Carnival is not easy. According to de Volkskrant, exact figures don’t seem to exist. In addition, there are many other factors that complicate a reliable calculation of the costs of Carnival. For example, the rumored rise in sick days taken by Dutch employees after Carnival – presumably because they are collectively sleeping it off – could also be explained by the fact that Carnival is celebrated in February, when outbreaks of the flu are more likely to occur in the Netherlands.

300 million

In 2012, professor of applied econometrics Philip Hans Franses of Erasmus University Rotterdam estimated that the costs of employees taking a sickie after Carnival amount to 300 million euros. But de Volkskrant points out that although this “sounds like a considerable amount of money”, there are also major economic benefits to take into account. Together, we spend around 270 million euros on food, drinks, makeup and clothing during Carnival. If Carnival-goers cost the economy around 300 million euros and they bring in more or less the same amount, the total price of the annual celebration amounts to zero.

In short, then, Carnival-goers have nothing to feel guilty about. As long as you lost track of how many beers you had and you ordered a side of kaassouflés to complement your frikandel speciaal xxl, you did not hurt the Dutch economy last weekend.

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