Staphorst is a town with a strong sense of tradition. It is one of the few places in the Netherlands where people still wear traditional costume (klederdracht) as part of everyday life, whereas in tourist towns such as Volendam and Marken the historic get-up is only donned to please visitors.
Some interesting facts:
- A defining characteristic of the town is its devoutness. Orthodox Calvinism is the faith of most of its nine thousand citizens, and the town is situated in what is called the ‘head of Overijssel’ (kop van Overijssel) at the northern tip of the Dutch ‘bible belt’.
- The ‘Staphorst Variant’ is a political construct by which a right-wing minority government is able to govern with the support of the small Orthodox Christian political parties, which consistently get seven to eight seats in the 150-member Dutch parliament. In Staphorst they generally garner fifty percent of the vote.
- Until the 1940s the custom of ‘night visits’ by courting young men to their beloveds was common. A special window or door allowed the visitor direct access to the young lady’s bedroom, of which her parents were well aware. Of course, the official idea was that there would be no intimacy beyond some innocent cuddling. And if it did go further… well, if the young lady got pregnant, there was no question that the young man would marry her.
- Adulterers would be dragged through the town on a dung cart. The last time someone was pilloried in this way was in 1961, when a national outrage put a stop to the practice.
Despite its dour, forbidding image, Staphorst is colorful. The thatched farmhouses sport bright green shutters and blue doors and window frames. The women’s traditional garb is adorned with dotting work (stipwerk), a local craft in which stamps are used to dot the traditional costume of the women with brightly colored floral designs.
For more about Staphorst, get Issue 17, of Dutch the magazine.
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