Windmills and merry-making

Frequently - especially in the Zaan district - joy used to be expressed in a more exuberant way than by the position of the sails alone, particularly when there was a wedding. The windmill on such an occasion was hung with 'finery', all sorts of simple products of folk art, small flags, cuttings in the form of hearts, letters, and other appropriate things and symbols, glistening tin-foil disks, rings, wreaths, Cupid's arrows, and even trumpeting angels. Sometimes an additional set of furled sail-cloths was laced in and out of the framework to make the whole thing as showy as possible. Those who are specially interested in this matter may study it more fully at the 'Zaans Molenmuseum' at Koog-aan-de-Zaan (a visit to this museum may be warmly recommended to all lovers of windmills!). From the point of view of folklore it is undeniably fascinating, but to be honest we can never be very enthusiastic about such a decorated windmill. It is too suggestive of a beautiful old city square or village green where a fair is being held, which as a rule completely spoils the fine characteristic features of the place. All that is beautiful there is then shouted clown altogether by the trumpery of the booths and merry-go-rounds, the noise and the rubbish attendant upon it, so that nothing is left of the pleasing atmosphere of the place.

It is somewhat similar with a decorated windmill. Owing to the cheap ornaments on and about the sails and in the framework, the handsome contours of the mill and its imposing appearance are practically lost to view, and such a mill looks more or less like a showdog in a jacket and with a forage cap on its head. In principle such an expression of popular joy is alright, but it makes a rather unnatural impression. As a display of popular rejoicing it is interesting, just like an oldfashioned fair, and on that account it is worth while to preserve it as an historical curiosity.

At the present day there are other means for giving a windmill a central place in general celebrations. What more festive spectacle can be imagined than that of a handsome wall mill floodlit at night? It is also possible to mark the contours of the sails, the body, and the railing, the windows and the door with small electric bulbs, but although this makes a pretty impression, the effect is not so natural.

Whilst formerly a decorated windmill would bear witness in a natural way to the joy felt about some special event in the miller's family circle, nowadays a mill becomes the monument which in the splendour of floodlight gives expression to the mood of rejoicing of a whole town.

In a simple way a town can thus show its attractions to its own inhabitants as well as to strangers. All too frequently it is forgotten that a windmill constitutes a graceful monument, deserving to be made the centre of interest, all this at minimum expense.

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