Emma Nel reports from her experience as a King's / Queen's Day novice:
This is one of the very (very!) few public holidays that the Dutch celebrate each year and the one in which they REALLY let their (very orange) hair down, and if you are a first timer – you are in for a big surprise!
Q-day arrived and a peek out the window at a bright and ungodly hour found a few boats trundling down the canal in front of our apartment with a few festive looking youngsters in orange attire, all quite serene and very civilized. We opened the front door and walked into a crowd of approximately 800 thousand orange lunatics! Not having been told that there was a dress code we might have been easy to spot as the ONLY people not covered in orange from top to toe. It was absolute mayhem and it is truly one of those occasions that I, as an expat, look back on with a great deal of pride and think “phew, made it! We survived!”
Here is a Queen’s Day survival guide for today:
1. First up… history, you never know, you may be called upon to cite a fact or two, that way they will never know that you aren’t a local!
The holiday was first observed on 31 August 1885 as Prinsessedag (Princess's Day), the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, heir to the Dutch throne. It became known as Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) when she ascended to the throne and when her daughter (Juliana) became queen in 1948 the date changed to Juliana’s birthday – 30 April. Juliana’s daughter (Beatrix) retained the celebration on 30 April when she, in turn, ascended to the throne in 1980 despite her birthday being 31 January. In 2013 it became known as Koningsdag (King’s Day) when the current King, Willem-Alexander stepped up to the hot seat, and the date shifted to 3 days earlier, 27 April – his birthday.
2. Dress code. Absolutely anything or even nothing as long as it is ORANGE! Accessories are available at your local Blokker, Hema, Kruidvat…… Shoes: not white ones, seriously, they will never come clean!
3. Take a back pack. Koningsdag is famous for its outdoor markets. Vrijmarkten (free markets) are a large part of the tradition. It is the Dutch version of a spring clean and in true Dutch thriftiness, all items that are no longer needed or wanted are placed on a blanket in front of their houses (or in allocated lots) for sale. You have to get out early for the good bits so be warned.
4.Food and Drink. Also handy to include in your backpack is a bottle of water and snacks or food unless you are up for the long queues and the traditional fried fare of kroket, bitterballen and hamburgers… The orange drink that you will come across is most likely orange bitter and Bols Genever (gin) and there is pretty much anything else available if you can stomach the queues. Remember that there will also be a queue for the loo so plan ahead!
5. Public Transport. Is very limited on this day so please check what services (if any) are available to avoid disappointment. www.9292.nl/en for more info or go by bike.
6.Money: ATMs will be empty before you can blink so draw some cash the day before but watch out for pickpockets! 7. A good attitude. At some point you are going to need it. Kings Day is a huge amount of fun but with as with any large crowd (combined with alcohol) there is bound to be someone not at their best.
8. The flag. The dutch flag will be hung with great pride today, also attached will be the orange pennant to indicate that it the celebration has something to do with the royal family.
7 Info/Websites: http://www.youropi.com/nl/haarlem/evenementen/koningsdag-3-11031
HAVE A GREAT ORANGE DAY! Emma Nel