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The Wana Saga

The Wana saga.

An important element in carnival time in the nearby town of Bergen op Zoom, is Wana the Witch from Reimerswaele (this town was ruined by a flood in 1530 and its ruins are still in the waters of the Easterscheld).

Every year in the time between 10 and 6 weeks before Easter it is carnival time. Then Bergenop Zoom is named “Krabbegat” (Crabshole)  The stile of the carnival  is based on the old carnivals from Burgundy and is very different to the socalled Rhineland carnival in towns like Maastricht in the province of Limburg and in Cologne in Germany.

The name “Krabbegat” is derived from the Meekrap root. This root was used to make alizarin dye for cloth and other fabric.  Because Bergen op Zoom, much of its income in old times, came from this red coloured dye and therefore became the symbol for the people of Bergenop Zoom a crab because the pronunciation of the word  krap and crab is the same. That is why people of Bergen op Zoom are called Crabs.

This feast of carnival has its origin in times before Christ, but in this region its dated from the middle ages. The people from Bergen op Zoom established their own way to celebrate this carnival.

About the year 1890 thy  began with “Dweilen” (in funny dresses, with masks on go out singing and dancing in the streets from tavern to tavern.

I think the best translation from “Dweilen” is swabbing.

After the last war, there was need for a more structured feast and therefore, some local members founded the “Stichting Vastenavend” (Mardi Grass foundation) by a manifest. This manifest is until now  a steady base for the Bergse carnival tradition.

In the carnival from theRhineland tradition, people greet each other with their hand  back  side as a salute and saying “Alaaf”. In Bergen op Zoom people greet each other with a spread out left hand with the thumb on the nose and saying “Agge mar leut et”. This is in local dialect and means “If you just have fun”.

This witch Wana did move, according to the saga, after the flood to the mud lands next to Bergen op Zoom. She is a good witch who comes to town during those carnival days and often have a role in the festivities.