The Inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) in the Netherlands contains ICH of which the communities, groups or individuals involved have written a safeguarding plan. Those plans are reviewed by an independent review committee. Every three years an evaluation of the safeguarding takes place.


The cheese carriers at the cheesemarket in Alkmaar, are well-known throughout the world. Their coloured straw hats, white clothes and the wooden berries (barrows); everyone knows this picture. There are more traditions. The boss of the guild is the kaasvader (cheese father), to be recognised from his orange hat and cane with silver mountings. All the cheese carriers have a straw hat in the colour of the four forwarding companies, each of which led by a foreman, the overman. The company colours are red, yellow, green and blue. The eldest cheese carrier in years of service has a leather purse and is called the tasman (purse man). At weighing he puts the weights on the balance and in the past he cashed the weigh money. The guild board appoints a provost, ‘de beul’, (‘the executioner’). He writes the names of cheese carriers who are late on the shaming board and cashes the associated fines. The board also appoints a knecht (servant), responsible for all odd jobs and for cleaning. Cheese carriers wear white clothes, a coloured straw hat and black shoes. They all have nicknames. If a cheese rolls from the berry during walking, the first cheese carrier of another company who sees that, loudly shouts: ‘OWL’, the only insult allowed. If the kaasvader should forget his hat or stick, the cheese carriers shout: ‘Father, father, you walk naked!’ The money from the fines that the late-comers must pay, partly goes to a good cause. The remainder is saved for Kruimelavond (Crumbs evening) on the Friday before Christmas, when the men gather for their ‘reward’. That consists of ‘wages’, two almond cakes for the wife, to thank her for keeping the clothes white and a white loaf of bread with butter and a thick slice of cheese for the children.



One is cheese carrier until death, but from 67 years on they are not expected to actively carry cheese anymore. The attachment to the guild remains very strong. The zetters and ingooiers are strongly involved with the cheese carriers’ guild, even if they are not members. Zetters set up the market and load the cheese on the berries. Ingooiers load the cheese, after weighing, to handcarts and take them to the lorries. The current cheese carriers are volunteers, who do their work against a small contribution to the lost income.



Alkmaar had a cheese balance in 1365 already. On June 17th 1593 the first ordinance on cheese carriers was established, defining the rights and duties of the cheese carriers. Cheese carriers derived an important part of the family income from their work at the market. The cheese market used to be a common trade market for ages, and not a tourist attraction. During World War II the cheese market could go on in the usual way because of this, until the supply became so marginal that it could not be called a cheese market anymore. After the war ever larger amounts of cheese were traded outside the cheese market and the cheese market gained visibility. In the end it became a really big tourist magnet, in which the cheese carriers played a major role. Alkmaar became famous throughout the world as a cheese town, partly thanks to the colourful cheese carriers. The guild changed accordingly and, apart from the cheese market, the cheese carriers were more and more used as ambassadors for the city, the country and the most important export product: cheese.



Vereniging het Alkmaars Kaasdragers Gilde
Noord Holland