October 3 – 3 October Festival in Leiden, Netherlands

Posted on October 3, 2013

Leiden, the Netherlands,
which features a series
of canals.
It was 1584. 

The Dutch city of Leiden had been under siege by the Spanish army for months, and food had run out. 

The Prince of Orange gathered together 200 small ships and a quantity of food, and he was determined to lead a rescue effort—over land—with those ships.

How could he lead a fleet of ships over land?

The Netherlands is famous for being very low-lying land that is only protected from flooding with sea water by a series of dikes built to restrain the ocean. The Prince of Orange intended to sail to the first dike, battle the Spanish soldiers guarding it, and cut the dike. This would flood the next bit of land, so he could sail to the next dike—and so on.

Of course, the prince knew that all this sea water flooding the Dutch farms would be devastating—but the Spaniards had already proved themselves to be devastating rulers, themselves...And so the Prince of Orange carried out his plan.

The plan didn't work smoothly. Unfavorable winds slowed the flooding, so the Dutch ships ran aground several times; also, the Spanish troops kept attacking them. Eventually, however, the relief ships reached Leiden. The Spaniards had been frightened off by the rising waters and abandoned their fort on this date in 1574. Ironically, on this same date one part of the wall that protected Leiden fell because it had been eroded by those same rising waters. 

But the Spaniards didn't stick around long enough to notice that the city was finally vulnerable!

The Prince of Orange led his relief army into the city and fed the people who had survived three months of siege, including an entire month without food. He fed them herring and white bread. According to legend, a little boy poking around the abandoned Spanish fort found a cooking pot filled with hutspot (carrot and onion stew). So today these three foods—herring, white bread, and hutspot—are prepared and eaten to celebrate the long-ago event.

The 3 October Festival is pretty big in Leiden! There is a funfair with rides and sideshows, and there is a huge market. Herring sandwiches (on white bread, of course) are handed out to festival goers—for free! Two parades and a fireworks show complete the fun. The festivities are only a short walk away from the canals, and the city provides free boat and canoe rides on the canals.

By the way...

One of the oddest facts about the siege of Leiden is that the mayor, who was trying to encourage his people to wait for the relief party that was fighting its way toward them, offered his own arm as food. However, I guess nobody took him up on this offer!

Also on this date:

Plan ahead:

Check out my Pinterest boards for October holidaysOctober birthdays, and historical anniversaries in October.

And here are my Pinterest boards for November holidaysNovember birthdays, and historical anniversaries in November.

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