Passion for the Passion: Religion and Heritage in Contemporary Dutch Society.
In the Netherlands HERILIGION will focus on ‘religious traditions with heritage qualities.’ This subproject takes a variety of ritual celebrations as instances of using the religious past in shaping a present-day secular-but-religiously-based Dutch national identity. In particular researchers focus on Easter and Saint Martin’s celebrations. Although, as in many other Western countries, the Dutch Easter celebrations largely focus on the Easter Bunny, egg hunts, and Easter breakfasts, a secular-religious context marks the extended Easter period. In performances such as The Passion and Saint Matthew’s Passion large parts of the population partake in a ritualized experience which as complex connections to religion and heritage. Similarly, the Saint Martin’s celebrations generate increased interest. In Utrecht the celebrations are increasingly experienced as communally important annual event bringing together a variety of stakeholders. Who, in times of sacralizing heritage and heritagized religion, manages what Easter of Saint Martin means?
This Dutch ‘passion for the Passion’ is concentrated around three forms of expression:
1) Performances of the Matthew Passion, which in the Netherlands is Bach’s most famous composition. Tracing the developments of the Matthew Passion from its deeply religious origin to multiple, secularized ‘high society events’, the subproject explores the relation between contemporary national identity and the religious past of the Netherlands and Europe.
2) Saint Martin’s Celebrations, in the city of Utrecht, the Saint Martin feast has over the course of the last fifteen years transformed into a full week of vernacularized rituals and practices, all dedicated to ‘the act of sharing.’ What stories are (not) told in the (re)creation of this heritage, and by whom? How does the diverse group of practitioners experience the feast, and what kinds of sentiments and emotions does the Saint Martin Parade in particular evoke?
3) The (since 2011) annual performance of The Passion, a contemporary musical Passion Play in the streets of a Dutch city on Good Friday, broadcast live on primetime national television. Initiated by Christian broadcasting corporations and staged by Dutch celebrity singers, religious heritage and secular spectacle meet in The Passion, but the event serves simultaneously as a spectacular missionary activity.