A traditional King’s Day
As we all know, this Saturday, 27th of April, is King’s Day (or Koningsdag, if you want to say it the Dutch way). On this day, people of The Netherlands celebrate the birthday of our king: Willem Alexander. Because even though we have been a democratic country since 1922, we are still very proud to have a monarchy as well. So how do we celebrate our king’s birthday?
Celebrating the birthday of our monarchs has been a tradition since 1885. Back then, we celebrated the birthday of our princess and the celebrations were especially for children. But now, more than a century later, King’s Day has developed into a national holiday for everyone. Over time, multiple traditions have been developed. Here are the most important ones.
On King’s Day, we celebrate the House of Oranje-Nassau, our royal family. Oranje means Orange, so what better way to celebrate than by wearing orange? On King’s Day, many people can be seen wearing orange and many houses and buildings are also decorated with orange decorations. Some people are more passionate about this than others. For example, some people only wear an orange shirt, orange head or orange sunglasses, while some others go all-out and dye their hair orange, put on orange wigs and paint the Dutch flag or the orange colour on their faces. The best part of this all: there is no wrong way to do it. No one judges others for the silliness of their orange outfit, so make it as crazy as you want.
Next to orange decorations and outfits, brands also join in with the King’s Day celebrations. Everyday products can be found with orange coloured packaging, just for King’s Day, and foods like the iconic Dutch ‘tompouce’ can be found with an orange topping.
King’s Day is also the only day in the year on which flea markets are legal for everyone, even without a permit. Nationwide there are flea markets to be found; in some cities, there are so many people setting up stands that it has become illegal to mark a spot for your stand days in advance (yes, this actually happens). Instead, people now wake up at six in the morning to make sure they have a nice spot for their stand or blanket where they can comfortably stay for the remainder of the day.
For the people that are not selling things, the big markets are convenient. You can find so many different things there, that there’s always something useful: old CDs and records, games, clothes, cutlery, plates and snacks are all sold for a very low price. So taking a stroll around a flea market is often worth your time.
Each year, our royal family visits a place in the country (last year, they visited Groningen actually). This year, that is going to be Amersfoort. This visit is so special that it is broadcasted live on national TV the whole day and viewed by many people. During the visit, the king and his entourage take a walk through the city while interacting with children showing tricks and playing games on his route, and shaking hands with ‘the people’, which often considers this to be a huge honour. Next to this, the city the king visits is often one where most celebrations happen. There are live performances by the best national singers, many fun events happen and it is the place where most people are celebrating- either because of the events or because they want to see the royal family. Many people coming from all sides of the country come together to celebrate together in the city.
And finally, there’s the most fun part of King’s Day: the festivals. King’s Day brings many festivals along with it. In most big cities in the country, there are multiple festivals with many different famous artists. These festivals often start the evening before King’s Day, King’s Night and they continue all night and possibly even the entire next day. People nationwide travel to the cities to attend festivals, with around 1 million people travelling to Amsterdam for the festivals every year. However, if you do not feel like travelling for hours, there are also festivals going on here in Groningen. So if you feel like celebrating the King’s birthday, or just feel like going to a festival, there’s enough opportunities for you to do so. And this weekend it’s totally normal, it’s even a tradition!
So there you have it, the traditions surrounding King’s Day. It’s a fun day with festivities for everyone and there’s enough to do. So if you feel like doing something fun on Saturday, consider joining the Dutch madness and practice some of our strange Dutch traditions. After all, they only happen once a year, so you might as well make use of it