The Netherlands recently experienced its most important national holiday, Koningsdag (or King’s Day), so I figured I would explain a bit about it and how it’s celebrated over here. The day marks the birthday of the sitting king or queen, which is April 27th for the incumbent, King Willem-Alexander. It is a public holiday so banks, shops etc are closed (but the bars stay open).
Essentially, the entire country is ‘free’ for the day and large public parades and music festivals pop up in the cities. ‘Free trade’ is instated for the day, meaning Dutch folks are able to buy and sell their goods without being taxed. As part of this, huge flea markets are organised by communities to take advantage of the law. Also common is oranjegekte (orange madness) where everyone dresses in orange, the national colour. I think this quote from an Orange committee member a few years ago sums the day up nicely:
“Friendships—and community—will be formed. For me that’s really what Queen’s Day is all about. It’s not an outburst of patriotism, it’s not even about the popularity of the royal family. It’s about a sense of belonging. For one day, everybody is the same in Holland. Bright orange and barmy”.
Feeling the need to impress and show how culturally open-minded we’ve all become, it was the international students who all seemed to turn out dressed for the occasion. Personally I donned a Dutch flag as a cape and spray-painted my hair orange; too much? Not enough!
From left to right: Italian, French, German, Northern Irish, all embracing the Dutch lyf.
Some fellow internationals and I took the train up to the neighbouring city of Arnhem, where there was a big open concert going on. The streets were crazy, everyone turned out for the occasion and there was a mixture of street performers, guys in orange morph-suits trying to sell us beer and an awesome atmosphere of freedom and community for the day. To me, it was remarkably similar to St Patrick’s Day back home, albeit orange instead of green.
In other news, the International Office organised a trip to see N.E.C. Nijmegen, our local football team, playing in the stadium. We may have lost 2-1 but the atmosphere was great and the Dutch make for some passionate supporters (probably the most swearing I’ve ever heard on a Sunday afternoon).
N.E.C. Champion!! (well, not this time I’m afraid)
Whilst it’s been quite fun recently I’m thinking more about when the time to leave comes, which isn’t far away. It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for nine months already, it really has flown in. Actually feels like yesterday I was meeting my orientation group for the first time, despite the fact that we’re very close friends now. For now I’ll try not too dwell on it too much and just get on with enjoying the rest of the time here.
Keep an eye out for my next post, where I’ll fill you in on my trip to Prague!
All the best,