Herring Party in Dutch version
The hall was full of hundreds of visitors yesterday at the Herring Party in Amsterdam, mostly white men in blue and grey suits. The atmosphere was good and lively. Apparently everybody was happy to see new herring come in. I saw some business relations here and there and had a nice chat, then I met up with a few black women (yes, they were there although a tiny minority). Like for me, it was their first herring party and none of ours knew where this tradition comes from, what it means. One of them looked it up at Google but all she found was lots of other herring parties mentioned. Nothing about history.
Why not Google myself? I tried and found that the Swedish have their own herring parties:
Surströmmingfest – fermented herring party. Not for the faint-hearted. This herring is sealed in a can and fermented to a very ripe stage. Its either loved or hated and has a very pungeant smell, although those who like it say the taste is heavenly. Mostly eaten in the North of the country or at the coastal regions where they are fished.
After struggling my way through indeed loads of parties, even in The Netherland Club of New York tomorrow, June 16th (see http://www.netherlandclub.com/pages/events/?action=page&id=C771155DA9), I finally found a (Dutch) page explaining some things about history: http://networkedblogs.com/j1Urv
Herring parties mark the date that the first vessel of herring is brought into the country. In the Dutch Golden Age (17th Century) herring was both an important food product for Dutch people and an important export product that contributed to our wealth. Export was made possible by techniques invented to keep and transport the herring. At herring parties the herring is still presented in this original way.
So maybe we cannot find who started the parties, but we know now what they mean to be: a good party where people can enjoy the new herring. And indeed that mattered to the public yesterday: at least twice I was roughly pushed aside by elder men when a tray of herring was presented. It was like an attack to the trays from all sides… Strange because these men were not poor, they could afford to buy some herring themselves if the party wouldn’t provide them with enough herring (although there was plenty all the time). Anyway I thank the organizers for a new experience in a new world, all together it was kind of anthropological research and big fun!