The Queen of England celebrated her birthday this week in typical low-key fashion, yet by contrast the King of the Netherlands birthday, aka Koningsdag, is a public holiday, marked with street parties, special concerts and themed markets.
Each year on 27 April (moved a day forward when the date falls on a Sunday) the Netherlands comes alive to mark the reigning King’s official birthday in an event known as Koningsdag or King’s Day.
The Dutch welcome the opportunity to cast off the winter season, dress head to toe in their national colour of orange and take to streets in a series of lively parties and events. As well as marking the ruling monarch’s birthday, it’s also symbolic celebration of the warmer weather and the approaching summer season.
Koningsdag is a special occasion throughout the Netherlands, with the biggest parties to be found in the major towns and cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, Arnhem and The Hague. The day kicks off with official musical performances where the Dutch break into renditions of national anthem “Het Wilhelmus”. The verse dates back to 1574 and details the life and times of William of Orange and his fight of behalf of the Dutch people.
Last year saw the Netherlands host the final Queen’s Day (as it was known) as the ruling Queen Beatrix stepped down. And following the celebrations was the inauguration on 30 April 2013 of King Willem-Alexander, the first male monarch of the Netherlands since 1890. The event on 26 April 2014 takes on a new direction as well as a new name to reflect the changes.
The holiday first came into being in 1885 when it was known as Prinsessedag, aka Princess’s Day, in hour of Princess Wilhelmina. Between 1890 and last year the name reflected the ruling females; Koninginnedag, aka Queen’s Day.
Whatever the name, the traditions and cultural values will be carried forward. The royal family themselves opt to visit one or two sites to be entertained by themed displays and entertaining performances, which mostly revolve around historic events. Generally the royal family joins in the merriment and take the time to greet some of the thousands of well-wishers.