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 two years an evaluation of the safeguarding takes place.

Description

In the period of February/March, Strao is ridden in six villages on the isle of Schouwen: Burgh Haamstede, Ellemeet, Scharendijke, Serooskerke, Renesse and Noordwelle. The highlight of Strao is the washing of the horses’ feet in the sea. The rider remains seated on the horse during the ride.

Riders and horses gather in the morning at a fixed starting point, and subsequently set off to the beach around noon. This point in time is different for every village.

There are two explanations for this feet washing:

- The injuries that the horses suffered during the winter in the stable are disinfected by the salty sea water.

- During the ride evil spirits are expelled.

Other important elements of the tradition are the decoration and the inspection of the horses. For this competition the horses are being decorated with natural materials and the riders, if possible, wear traditional costumes. The inspection is done by a jury consisting of village people. At the end of the ride the riders return to the village, where they are welcomed by a delegation of the municipality and the Strao committee. The parade is accompanied by the local music society. After their return the results of the competition for the most beautifully decorated horse and rider are announced.

As an extra activity in some cores ring tilting and/or running competitions take place with the horses and riders who participated in the Strao.  There is a party night in one of the entertainment facilities of the village. By tradition, schroasels (a kind of flat gingerbread) are eaten during Strao.

Community

The most important groups are the participating Strao riders, led by a front rider, and the public that comes to watch the Strao. In addition, every participating village on Schouwen has its own Strao committee that organises the Strao. They take care of the subscriptions, the route, judging, prizes, promotion, the press contacts etcetera. The various committees meet several times for mutual consult, during which they align the different activities. The municipality Schouwen-Duiveland and the public services are also involved in the Strao.

History

The strao-rieen (dialect for ‘beach riding’) is a festivity that only takes place on the isle of Schouwen. In earlier days young farmers and farmhands rode into the sea to wash their horses’ feet after a winter in the stable. One used to believe in the purifying and healing power of the water for the feet of the horses. The elderly farmers remember this very well, because the sea water could help heal the horses’ feet when they were itchy, or infected with scabies. After this ritual washing one returned to the village to ride around it several times.

One of the earliest references to Strao dates back to 1643. Religious communities, in their reports of that year, stated incidents of indecent behaviour, like horse riding on Sundays and cavalcades entering the churchyard. Strao was later on moved to the Monday. Next to Christmas and the annual fair, Strao was the only extra day off for the workers.

Around 1955 Strao was moved to the ‘free’ Saturday, to prevent it from dying out because of the decreasing interest. Nowadays not only farmers, but many other horse lovers participate as well, so that instead of only Zeeland horses, other horse and pony breeds can be seen in the cavalcades.

Safeguarding

2018-2019

  • Making arrangements with primary schools and museums to pay attention to the Strao tradition, for example by volunteers of the Strao committees in the classroom and theme exhibitions in the museums. After all, Strao is part of the identity of Schouwen-Duiveland.
  • Setting up special youth Strao committees that can give a contemporary impulse to the tradition.
  • During the meetings twice a year, where all Strao committees are present, coordinating activities and exchange experiences so that the best possible use can be made of available resources: horses, music associations, etc.
  • Maintaining intensive contact with the municipality, police and nature management organisations to ensure that the tradition is carried out flawlessly.
  • Maintaining contact with the media in order to inform and stimulate visitors and the population.

Contact

Strao comité Burgh-Haamstede
Kerkstraat
4328 LH Burgh-Haamstede
Zeeland
Website