by Andrea Undecimo
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to walk in the streets at night with only the stars to light your way? What it looks like to be guided by only the starry sky and the moon? Indeed, we are so used to artificial lights that we sometimes forget about all this; some have referred to this over exposure to light even at night as “light pollution”, a term that well describes this condition. For this reason, the city of Middelburg has decided, some years ago, in collaboration with Natuur en Milieufederaties, to dedicate one day of the year, usually the last Saturday of October, to turn off every light in the city in order to spread awareness about the issue of light pollution and to teach the beauty of real darkness. This is how this celebration evolved, from an idea of a group of passionate people from the café Vriendschaap to the big event that has become today, with more than 60 activities throughout the city and with the participation of almost every business and people in the town, making this event the most widely supported event in Middelburg.
The Nacht van de Nacht is, however, not just a campaign to spread awareness about the issue of light pollution. The music, dances, workshops, crammed restaurants and cafes and a crowd of spooky ghosts and monsters that walk through the streets at the rhythm of the music, all contribute to make the city even more alive and attractive and make the usual Halloween celebrations much more original and vivid. The choir at the Market Square that was singing a hymn gave the city an atmosphere reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” or “Oliver Twist”. Wandering through the half illuminated streets, with the sound of trombones and drums in the background, really makes you fall into that gothic, 19thcentury feeling. An intimate candlelight concert at the Lange Jan created a melancholic and sweet mood. Moreover, all the restaurants served food in almost complete darkness, with spectacular effects of smoke and fire that enhanced the experience and with the waiters that were dressed up according to the theme of the restaurant (at Restaurant De Herberg, for instance, the waiters were dressed as chemists from Breaking Bad). Talking about food, throughout the city you could find stands serving delicious Olieballen, roasted marshmallows and warm baskets of chestnuts. For the dance lovers, De Spot had organized a Dancing in the Dark theme party that made you move in a glowing and futuristic room. For the younger ones the city had organized many activities: from rooms where you could decorate your face with glowing paint and take some cool pictures, to art projects, and workshops where kids could build their own ‘star lampion’.
The Nacht van de Nacht is an extraordinary event, that combines a good cause with fun. Indeed, what struck me most about this night, was seeing how the entire city transformed and collaborated to make this event memorable. Personally, I have never seen Middelburg so alive and, despite the chilly temperatures, warm-hearted. I hope that this tradition will continue for a long time and maybe that more events like this will pop up.
Andrea Undecimo, Class of 2020, is an Anthropology, Law and International Relations Major from Macerata, Italy.
Image Source: Nacht van de Nacht Instagram