Kallemooi on Schiermonnikoog – Pentecost tradition with rooster

The Wadden Island of Schiermonnikoog has various traditions that the island community attaches great importance to. One of those traditions takes place around Pentecost and is called Kallemooi. It is a May festival and a centuries-old custom that is still vividly celebrated on the island and in which a rooster plays a leading role. Kallemooi is around and on Pentecost and is accompanied by drinking kallemooi bitters, a fair, dancing and lots of fun. Kallemooi is only celebrated on Schiermonnikoog. It is a fertility ritual and a custom to protect islanders. In the 21st century there will be some resistance; animal lovers are opposed to the use of an animal in tradition. To say the least, it would not be animal-friendly and, to say the least, it would be animal abuse.

The tradition with the rooster in a mast

  • Kallemooi on Schiermonnikoog
  • What does Kallemooi mean?
  • Tradition on the Wadden Island
  • Kallemooi Commission
  • Kallemooihaan
  • Ameland
  • Take care of the rooster
  • Lawsuit over the rooster


Kallemooi on Schiermonnikoog

Kallemooi is a fertility festival that is celebrated around and on Pentecost on Schiermonnikoog. It starts on the Saturday before Pentecost and ends on the Wednesday after. On the evening before Pentecost, various rituals are performed. Part of the custom is a rooster that is stolen – nowadays the rooster is handed over – to one of the islanders. The rooster is put in a basket that is attached to the Kallemooimast, an 18 to 20 meter high pole that is placed vertically with the Kallemooi flag on top. The rooster remains in his basket, high in the mast, until the day after Pentecost.

Zoutkamp and Peasens

The Kallemooi Festival is only celebrated on Schiermonnikoog, following the Norwegian example. Previously, similar celebrations were held in Zoutkamp, Paesens and along the Dutch coast. The German Wadden Island of Borkum celebrates a similar festival and the midsummer celebrations in Scandinavia and the Baltic States are similar to Kallemooi. All these celebrations are accompanied by the erection of a mast and have a rooster in the center.

What does Kallemooi mean?

Where does the word Kallemooi come from? There are several explanations. For example, it would be a corruption of ‘Call the May’ or ‘kale mei’ , a ‘bare maypole’. Kallemooi is a May festival and ‘keale maeibeam’ is Schiermonnikoogs for bare maypole. More spring festivals were celebrated in the nineteenth century and the centuries before. The Kallemooi around Pentecost is still a remnant of that. According to another explanation, Kallemooi comes from the Old Norse word ‘kallen’ which means ‘to call’. ‘Beautiful’ in this statement is a corruption of ‘May. Still others believe that the word ‘kalle’ refers to the old Germanic word ‘gallus’ , which means ‘cock’ .

Tradition on the Wadden Island

Kallemooi has been celebrated in its current form since 1880. It is a tradition full of symbolism that is rooted in the society of Schiermonnikoog.

Kallemooi Commission

The party is led by the Kallemooi Committee, also known as the Pentecost Committee, which consists of eleven members. The men can be recognized by their half-top hats with white-green ribbon and a rosette on the lapel. The ribbon around the hat reads Kallemooi. The Kallemooi Committee places the Kallemooimast at approximately 11:30 PM on the Saturday before Pentecost.


The Kallemooimast is an important element in the tradition. That is the keale maeibeam’ . It is a thick pole of 18 to 20 meters high. There are four ropes on the mast that refer to the four cardinal points and which are accurately aimed by a number of strong guys led by the members of the Kallemooi Commission. The mast is placed in a place determined by tradition, in the middle of the village, between the inn and the church. A green twig is tied at the top and a red-white-blue flag with the word ‘Kallemooi’ flutters in the white stripe at the top. A yard is attached to the post and the basket with the cock is tied at the intersection of the crossbar and mast. An empty jar or several empty bottles hang from the yard at each end. Those bottles or jars symbolize the festive spirit. The Kallemooimast is dismantled on the Wednesday after Pentecost.

Kallemoo bitters

Once the Kallemooimast is properly in place, it is time for a Kallemooibitter, an alcoholic sip. Around midnight before Pentecost, a Kallemooi bitter is drunk and the sound is sounded. Then the party starts in the nearby catering establishment.


A live rooster is locked in the basket at the Kallemooimast. The basket is spacious and measures 140 by 60 and 70 centimeters. According to tradition, it must be stolen by a young islander from one of the chicken coops on the island. This concerns the fattest and best crowing rooster in Schiermonnikoog. Some see this as an old Germanic custom, in which magical power is attributed to stealing. Stealing is done with a wink on Schiermonnikoog, although chicken farmers keep a close eye on their coops in the days before Pentecost. It is the only theft on the island against which the police do not take action. All things considered, it is more a loan than a theft; the owner gets the rooster back after Kallemooi. Once the rooster is in the basket, the men do a round dance. No girl is allowed to be present there.

The Kallemooi Commission for the town hall of Ameland / Source: Jan Blaak Collection


Sometimes, just sometimes, a rooster is brought in from elsewhere. In 1972, Douwe Appelman (the man with the cap in the photo) from Nes on Ameland suddenly missed his rooster. The Amelanders do not celebrate Kallemooi and are not concerned about possible rooster stealing: it was easy prey for the thief from the neighboring island. After the party, the Kallemooi committee brought the rooster back. Mayor Siderius (third from the left) then had a drink with the men of Schiermonnikoog in the catering facility located next to the town hall. At that time, the town hall was still in the middle of Nes.



And why is that rooster so high in the mast? There is a story that says that the animal can clearly see whether the Normans are coming. With his loud crowing he could then warn the islanders.


The rooster symbolizes fertility. Because the rooster is stolen, it gains magical power. The animal has food in the form of soaked bread at its disposal and thus spends the Pentecost days at an altitude of 18 meters. On the third day of Pentecost, the mast is lowered and the rooster is returned in procession to its rightful owner.

Pentecost fair and Kallemooistep

After the mast was placed, the Pentecost fair was opened. The Pentecost fair opens with a ball, the Kallemooistep, where everyone is welcome. What is special about the Kallemooistep is that the men have to crow and the women have to strum. The ball is a big chicken coop with music and dancing, crowing and strumming.

Pentecost riding

Pentecost three, the Tuesday after Pentecost, it is time for the traditional children’s games in the village. Kallemooi is also a great children’s party. The Kallemooi Committee organizes these festivities. On the third day of Pentecost, the Pentecost riding takes place at 7 p.m., during which the Kallemooi Committee is driven around on farm wagons with horses. Pentecost refers to the ‘circumstance’, in which fertility is implored over the crop. These fertility rites have almost completely disappeared from the Netherlands.
After Pentecost riding it is time to take down the Kallemooimast.

Take care of the rooster

Animal rights organizations are very concerned about the welfare of the rooster. Protests have been growing since 2014. They argue for changing the tradition because it would cause animal suffering. Islanders value their tradition.

In 2015, the National Animal Protection Inspection Service Foundation wrote advice to the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, with conditions for good care for the rooster. The Kallemooi Committee has adhered to those conditions ever since and adapted certain parts of its use.

The conditions are :

  • More than enough food and drinks;
  • more than enough space;
  • weather protection;
  • webcam in the basket;
  • check by a veterinarian.


Lawsuit over the rooster

The agreements do not go far enough for some animal activists. They will go to court in early 2019 because they believe that an animal is being abused because of a party. The rooster is said to suffer from the tradition due to fear and stress. They believe that the Municipality of Schiermonnikoog should no longer grant a permit for this party and that the Kallemooi Commission should look for an alternative to the rooster. The judge ruled in March 2019 that there was no animal abuse. The Animal Emergency Aid Committee does not leave it at that and goes to the Council of State. The rooster would suffer from fear and stress at the top of the mast and that is mental abuse, according to the Animal Emergency Aid Committee.

Council of State ruling

On December 24, 2019 it becomes clear that the rooster can be placed in the basket on the mast. The Council of State ruled and the Kallemooi tradition remains. According to the law, animal welfare is not a valid reason to refuse a permit, according to the Council of State.

Ruling of the objection committee of the municipality of Schiermonnikoog

The objections committee of the municipality of Schiermonnikoog stated in February 2020 that the municipality should not have banned the demonstrations during the 2019 Pentecost festival. Animal activists wanted to hold demonstrations on the island, but the municipality banned this on Saturday afternoon and Sunday in Kallemooi. The municipality only allowed demonstrations during the hoisting of the rooster. The demonstrators had to remain in a demonstration area and were not allowed to wave flags or use sound amplification. Activists carried out one-man actions because of the ban. The municipality of Schiermonnikoog has violated the right to demonstrate. Mayor Ineke van Gent says he respects the ruling of the independent objections committee. The mayor can only ban a demonstration if there is a risk of disorder. That was not an issue here, says the objections committee.


A . Schiermonnikoog
B . Kallemooimast


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