Reminiscences of the relief of Leiden: a total ritual event


This article examines the Third of October festivities in the city of Leiden, The Netherlands, held in commemoration of its relief from the Spanish siege in 1574. These festivities are defined as a total urban ritual event and put in a historical perspective. They include all sorts of activities such as the handing out of herring and white bread, the eating of a beef stew, reveille, choral singing, a solemn church service of thanksgiving, and the funfair and market selling a variety of wares. The meaning of the core rituals is analysed at three levels. At its most profound level, this total urban ritual event is conceived in relation to the basic value dichotomy of life and death, which is expressed in the use of space during the festivities. At the level of intergroup relations, the exchange of food is seen as an important form of gift exchange which defines the relationships. At the institutional level, the interplay of city, state and church is shown to be crucial to the understanding of the main ritual activities. The Leiden Third of October festivities, analysed as a total urban ritual event, unveil the inversion of power relations and the celebration of common social interaction.