The beginning of spring in the Netherlands

17 Mar

The same province Friesland, known for the skating tour of the 11 towns, also has a spring tradition: finding the first lapwing (kievit) egg.

The first found and registered egg is then offered to the Queen’s commissary (a longer time ago to the Queen herself) and is a symbol for the beginning of spring. The commissary places the egg in a bowl of water and if the egg floats it means it is fresh and then the commissary eats it.

This year it happened on Saturday, March 10th. And I am inclined to believe it is right, since the following day was the first real beautiful day of spring of this year, 15° C and sunny.

But the tradition is less innocent than it seams: in all of Europe picking up lapwing’s eggs is forbidden, but for Friesland an exception was made, because of “cultural-historical” reasons.

Between March 1st- April 9th a max. of 6.934 eggs may be picked up (how did they ever get to such a number?). Also, the persons who pick up the eggs must have a special card, issued by an association for the protection of birds, so that, if the owner of such a card does not follow the rules, the card can be cancelled. And per person no more than 15 eggs may be picked up. Each found egg must be registered by sms, after which an sms will be returned with information whether the founder may keep the egg. I wonder how many lovers of lapwing eggs “forget” to send an sms and, honestly, I don’t see how these measures can prevent the people from taking as many eggs as they want.

It seems that every spring about 6.500 inhabitans of the province go looking for eggs and that the whole tradition is somehow a matter of ego, as the finder of the first egg receives from the Queen’s commissary a small silver lapwing and a price of 15 euro, but what seems more important is that the finder is considered a real hero (???). This I can understand, maybe, eventually, but after the first finder is known, why do thousands of people still keep looking for eggs? If they were living in a poor country, where food was a luxury, I would have been able to understand this, but since it is not the case, I simply can’t. It seems that these eggs are true delicacies and they are being eaten even raw. I am reading on the internet the words of an inhabitant of the province and he mentions how, living there, you are being instigated by friends to go looking for eggs, and as soon as the spring approaches the people become restless and go out in the fields. This person also writes that they will not stop at lapwing’s eggs, but also pick up other eggs, especially duck’s… So I really have no confidence that many people follow the rules…

According to the Association for the Protection of Fauna, since 1996 the lapwing population has decreased dramatically in Friesland, and the birds should actually be protected. But this proposition is not being taken into account yet.

The president of Friesland’s Birdwatchers’ Union suggests to get the seeking and picking up of lapwing eggs on the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage, because it is an old tradition, dating for centuries. Each year, the tradition causes discussions and if it were on the UNESCO list, it would be recognized for good.


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