Today it’s King’s Day in the Netherlands, or Koningsdag as we say in Dutch. During this National Holiday, which is usually held on the King’s birthday (27th of April), the whole country turns orange. In this blog entry I will talk about what this festivity is all about and why the Dutch are so fond of it.
One of the main central activities in every Dutch town is the so-called vrijmarkt, a free market to sell all the stuff you no longer need. Anyone can put a blanket on the street and sell his stuff, without the need for any payment or permission whatsoever. On these markets, it is common that there are kind of activities, such as concerts. In the bigger cities there are big concerts with various artists.
As said before, during King’s Day many people wear orange clothes, sometimes complemented with an orange hat or crown. Some have event dyed their hair orange or have painted their faces either orange or red-white-blue, the colours of the flag. It is remarkable that the colour orange is much more popular than the red-white-blue, and there are several theories where the colour orange as a national colour comes from.
The clearest link is the one with the Principality of Orange, France, where the origins of the Dutch Royal family lie. For a short period during and after the 80-years war against the Spanish King Philip II, there was already an orange-white-blue flag. Whatever the origins of the colour orange as the Dutch national colour may be, it is for sure that the colour represents not only the Dutch royal family, but all sport teams and athletes as well. The so-called orange geekiness (oranjegekte) gets even bigger than during King’s Day with houses and street lanes painted orange as well.
Although festivities are to be found in any Dutch city or village, there is only one city that has the privilege to be visited by the King himself. The King does not come alone, but takes his nearest relatives with him. In this cities, they will watch all kind of performances carried out by the local people. During these visits, the Dutch Royal Family comes into contact with the citizens and they have a little chat or take a selfie. It is also common that the members of the Royal Family participate in different activities that are organized along their way through the city.
The last ten years and after several scandals, the Dutch Royal Family has gained popularity. This success should not in the last place be attributed to the current Queen and King’s wife, Máxima. In 2008 the support for the monarchy reached an 80%, but according to the NOS, this now this has diminished to 65%. Nonetheless, even those who are not in favour of the monarchy, tend to happily participate in the King’s Day festivities.
History and future
King’s Day and its former equivalent Queen’s Day date back to 31st of August 1885. This was Princess Wilhelmina’s 5th birthday, in honour of which celebrations were held in an attempt to promote the monarchy. When her father, King Willem III, died in 1890, the name of the festivity was changed from Prinsessedag (Princess’s Day) into Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day). However, it took until the end of the Second World War in order to become a festivity in which the whole nation participated.
When Wilhelmina’s daughter Juliana became Quyeen, she did not only change the date to April 30, but also the way it was celebrated. Queen Juliana organized some kind of parade, in which the people carried out performances or just simple waved, in front of her residence, the Soestdijk Palace. Queen Juliana was known as a Queen who stood close to the citizens. Her daughter Beatrix was more formal, yet it was her decision to visit the people herself instead of inviting the people to visit her. From 1980 on, Queen Beatrix visited one or two cities in the country. The date remained unchanged in honour of her mother, but probably also due to the weather conditions on her own birthday, January 30.
After almost 70 years of Queen’s Day on April 30, both the date and the name changed as soon as Willem-Alexander became King on April 30 2015, the last Queen’s Day. Whether there will ever be a Queen’s Day again, is unknown. The birthday of the current heir, Princess Amalia, is on December 7. It is unlikely that as soon as she becomes Queen, Queen’s Day will be rescheduled to this date, especially since this is two days after Sinterklaas, another big celebration in the Netherlands. Maybe she will do the same as her grandmother did and keep it to King’s Day on April 27 in honour of her father. One thing is for sure: she likes King’s Day a lot.