King’s Day, formerly known as Queen’s Day festival invites locals and visitors alike to soak up Amsterdam’s open-air celebrations. In the streets, canals, parks and all around, the city is covered with orange as Amsterdammers seek to enjoy the biggest street party of the year, as known by those who are familiar with the energetic celebratory atmosphere. In April the Dutch say farewell to Winter at the new King’s Day (Koningsdag) Festival, wearing lots of orange and celebrating in the streets to mark the reigning monarch’s birthday and to welcome warmer weather.
The Dutch have been celebrating Queen’s Day on 30th April, which is the birthday of the previous Queen Juliana, since 1949. On April 30th 2013 Holland saw to its first male monarch since 1890: King Willem-Alexander. This succession meant many alterations for the festival, including the fact that Queen’s Day will have a new name, a new date and a new significance. The first Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) on August 31st, 1885 was actually called Prinsessedag, or Princess’s Day, for Princess Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday. Koningsdag is also observed in Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Each year, the royal family visits one or a few places on King’s Day. They are involved with exhibits and performances around local historic events. Royal family members generally join in with the games in a good natured way and greet thousands of people who turn out to get a glimpse of them. The festivities on Koningsdag are often organised by Orange Committees (Dutch: Oranjecomité), local associations that seek sponsorship and donations for their activities. The vrijmarkt (literally ‘free market’) is a nationwide flea market, at which many people sell their used goods. Koningsdag celebrations consist of many concerts and special events in public spaces, particularly in Amsterdam. An outdoor concert is held on Amsterdam’s Museumplein, where as many as 800,000 people may gather locally and from overseas.
Party boats are a unique way to experience King’s day, from the canals. Many young people celebrate in the streets and squares (and in Amsterdam, the canals as well) throughout the night, and after all-night partying join the crowds at the vrijmarkt.
Children sell their cast-off toys or garments at the Vondelpark, also in southern Amsterdam, and in a spirit of fun visitors often offer the young sellers more than they are asking for the goods.
The flag of the Netherlands is red, white and blue, yet orange is the actual colour of the royal family and everyone there embraces the bright, happy colour, welcomed after a long, colourless winter. Even the flags are adorned with a mini-flag of orange, marking its importance in symbolism.
Those taking part in Koningsdag often dye their hair orange or wear orange clothing to honour the House of Orange-Nassau, which rules over the Netherlands. Orange-coloured drinks and food are also popular on this merry day. This colour choice is sometimes dubbed “orange madness”, or in Dutch, oranjegekte. Restaurants may be shut or open as usual, only serving special “King’s Day” meals. Cafes and restaurants may close earlier than usual as many wish to participate in the celebrations themselves.
Many people enjoy singing “Het Wilhelmus”, a poem written in 1574 describing the life of William of Orange (William the Silent) and his enthusiasm for the Dutch people. It is written as if William of Orange is first introducing himself to the Dutch people. Several versions and covers are also played by bands performing at King’s Day events and on radio stations.
On such a warm festive day, orange may become a favourite colour to some after joining this huge party. Dutch traditions and culture is unique in its history.
What is the value of the colour orange on Koninginnedag?