King’s Day: A Royal Celebration in the Netherlands

Date:

King's Day
  • News by AUN News correspondent
  • Wednesday, April 26, 2023
  • AUN News – ISSN: 2949-8090

Summary:

  • King’s Day, or Koningsdag in Dutch, is a national holiday celebrating King Willem-Alexander’s birthday on April 27.
  • In this article, we’ll explore the history, traditions, and attractions of King’s Day and provide you with valuable tips to make the most of this festive occasion.
  • What are the traditions of King’s Day? King’s Day has some long-standing traditions reflecting Dutch culture and history.
  • How to prepare for King’s Day? If you plan to celebrate King’s Day, there are some things you can do to make your experience more enjoyable and safe.

Are you ready to join the biggest street party in the Netherlands? King’s Day, or Koningsdag in Dutch, is a national holiday celebrating King Willem-Alexander’s birthday on April 27. The whole country turns orange to honor the royal family and enjoy various outdoor activities, such as music performances, flea markets, and boat parades. In this article, we’ll explore the history, traditions, and attractions of King’s Day and provide you with valuable tips to make the most of this festive occasion.

Introduction

King’s Day is not only a day of national pride but also a day of community spirit. People of all ages and backgrounds come together to share their joy and creativity with others. The streets are filled with orange-themed outfits, flags, balloons, and decorations from early morning till late at night. The Dutch love celebrating their freedom, diversity, and unity, and King’s Day is the perfect occasion. Whether a local or a tourist, you’ll find plenty of things to do and see on King’s Day. Let’s dive into the details!

What is King’s Day?

King’s Day is a public holiday in the Netherlands that marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander on April 27. Before 2014, the holiday was called Queen’s Day in honor of his mother, Queen Beatrix, who abdicated on April 30, 2013, after 33 years of reign. The new king decided to keep the tradition but changed the date to his own birthday, which is also more suitable for outdoor activities due to better weather conditions. Since then, King’s Day has become the largest open-air festival in the country, attracting millions of visitors from around the world.

How is King’s Day celebrated?

King's day
King’s Day celebration at the Den Haag, Centrum near Grote Markt

King’s Day is celebrated in many ways, depending on the city, the region, and the local customs. However, some activities are typical for all places and are part of the national program. Here are some examples:

Free market: A flea market where everyone can sell second-hand items, homemade goods, and food. Children often participate in this activity by setting up their own stalls or performing music or dance.

Street party: A gathering of people on the streets, squares, and parks, where sharing of music, drinks, and food takes place. Many neighborhoods organize their own street parties with different themes and competitions.

Boat parade: A procession of decorated boats on the canals, rivers, and lakes, with live music and cheering crowds. Amsterdam is famous for its boat parade, which attracts thousands of participants and spectators.

Games and sports: People of all ages organize various sports events, such as football, volleyball, or tug-of-war. Children also enjoy playing traditional Dutch games, such as “koekhappen” (bite the cake) or “spijkerpoepen” (nail pooping).

Royal visit: The royal family visits one or two cities or towns every year, where they participate in local activities, greet the public, and receive gifts and flowers. This is a special moment for the locals, who prepare themselves to see the king, queen, and their children in person.

What are the traditions of King’s Day?

King's day celebration
Cultural program with live music at Den Haag, Centrum Spui

King’s Day has some long-standing traditions reflecting Dutch culture and history. Here are some of them:

Orange: The color orange is associated with the Dutch royal family, as it is the color of the House of Orange-Nassau, the dynasty to which King Willem-Alexander belongs. On King’s Day, people wear orange clothes, hats, wigs, and accessories to show their loyalty and enthusiasm.

National anthem: At 10 am, the national anthem, “Het Wilhelmus,” is played or sung in all public places as a sign of respect and unity. The song has 15 stanzas and tells the story of the Dutch struggle for freedom and independence.

Herring: Eating herring, or “haring” in Dutch, is popular on King’s Day. The first barrel of herring of the year is auctioned off in Scheveningen, a coastal town, and the proceeds go to charity. The herring is eaten raw with onions and pickles and is considered a healthy and tasty delicacy.

Orange cake: Baking or buying an orange cake, or “oranje tompouce” in Dutch, is a sweet tradition on King’s Day. The cake has two layers of puff pastry filled with vanilla cream and topped with orange icing. It’s a delicious and festive treat that can be found in almost every bakery or supermarket.

How to prepare for King’s Day?

If you plan to celebrate King’s Day, there are some things you can do to make your experience more enjoyable and safe. Here are some tips:

Dress orange: Wear comfortable and orange-colored clothes, shoes, and accessories. You can also paint your face or wear a wig or a hat with the Dutch flag or the royal family’s emblem.

Plan ahead: Check the local program and map out your route, considering the crowd, the transportation, and the restrooms. Bring a map, a phone charger, and some cash, as some places may not accept cards.

Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water, especially if the weather is hot or sunny. Alcohol is also popular on King’s Day, but drink responsibly and don’t drink and drive.

Protect your belongings: Keep your valuables, such as your wallet, phone, and camera, in a secure and visible place. Beware of pickpockets, and don’t leave your belongings unattended.

Respect the rules: Follow the instructions of the police, the volunteers, and the organizers. Don’t litter, don’t make too much noise, and don’t damage public or private property. Be kind and respectful to others, even if you don’t speak Dutch.

Have fun: Enjoy the music, the food, the games, and the company of others. Take photos, make memories, and share your experiences with friends and family.

King’s Day and COVID-19

Due to the ongoing pandemic, King’s Day has been affected in some ways. The government has issued guidelines and restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus and ensure the participants’ safety. Here are some measures that you should be aware of:

Keep a distance: Maintain a distance of at least 1.5 meters from others indoors and outdoors. Avoid crowded places, such as narrow streets or busy squares.

Wear a mask: Wear a face mask in indoor public spaces, such as shops, trains, and toilets. You don’t need to wear a mask outdoors, but you can do so if you feel more comfortable or if the situation requires it.

Get tested: If you have COVID-19 symptoms or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive, get tested and stay at home until you get the result. If you test positive, inform the health authorities and follow their instructions.

Limit your group: Don’t gather in groups of more than four people unless you belong to the same household. This rule applies both indoors and outdoors.

Follow the curfew: In some cities, a curfew may occur from 10 pm to 4.30 am. This means you must stay indoors during these hours except for important reasons, such as work or medical emergencies.

FAQs

What is King’s Day, and why is it celebrated?

King’s Day is a national holiday in the Netherlands that celebrates the king’s birthday. It’s a festive day that includes parades, concerts, markets, games, and traditional food and drinks. King’s Day is celebrated on April 27 unless it falls on a Sunday, in which case it’s celebrated on April 26.

Who is the current king of the Netherlands?

The current king of the Netherlands is King Willem Alexander. He was born on April 27, 1967, and ascended to the throne on April 30, 2013, after his mother, Queen Beatrix, abdicated.

What is the history of King’s Day?

King’s Day had its roots in the 19th century when it was known as “Prinsessedag” or “Princess Day” in honor of the birthday of Princess Wilhelmina. After she became queen in 1890, the holiday became “Koninginnedag” or “Queen’s Day.” In 2013, when Willem-Alexander became king, the holiday was renamed “Koningsdag” or “King’s Day.”

What are some typical King’s Day traditions?

Some typical King’s Day traditions include wearing orange clothes, eating herring and orange cake, participating in the “vrijmarkt” or “free market,” where people sell second-hand items, and enjoying music and dance performances.

How is King’s Day celebrated in other parts of the world?

King’s Day is a national holiday in the Netherlands, but it’s also celebrated worldwide, especially in Dutch communities. In some cities, such as New York and San Francisco, King’s Day is marked with street parties, bike rides, and cultural events.

How can I watch the King’s Day celebrations?

If you’re not in the Netherlands, you can still watch the King’s Day celebrations online, on TV, or social media. The Dutch national broadcaster, NOS, usually airs live coverage of the events, including the royal family’s appearance, the parade, and the concerts. You can also follow the hashtag #Koningsdag or #KingsDay on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook to see photos and videos from the participants.

Conclusion

King’s Day is a colorful and joyful celebration reflecting Dutch culture, history, and identity. Whether a local or a visitor, you can join the festivities and experience the sense of community and belonging that King’s Day inspires. By following the tips and guidelines, you can also stay safe and healthy and contribute to the positive atmosphere of the day. Happy King’s Day!

About the author:

Priyasa Banerjee is the Secretary of Advocacy Unified Network, an international organization that conducts public policy research and advocacy. She is known for her strategic thinking and ability to build coalitions. She is also an avid supporter of the arts and cultural expression.

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