Never let it be said that Dutchies don’t know how to party. Seriously. Never say it.
I’ve written about Queen’s Day before, and having celebrated the Dutch national holiday for the third year running, I can only say that it continues to amaze me. There’s something about it that makes me happy, and I’m not even Dutch. Or a royal watcher.
On the surface, it’s a celebration of the Queen’s birthday. Current Queen Beatrix made herself immensely popular by proclaiming that the day would remain on her mother’s (that would be Queen Juliana) birthday as a sign of love and respect. Not only was she being a good daughter, she was also ensuring that the holiday would remain on April 30th, at the height of blossoming, blooming, glorious springtime.
The holiday actually has two parts: Koninginnenacht (Queen’s Night, essentially Queen’s Day Eve) and the Day itself. While some may characterize the 30-hour period as one big party, and for some it is indeed, most cities, towns, villages and neighborhoods celebrate the two events slightly differently.
Here in The Hague, Queen’s Night is highlighted by a fantastic city-wide, open air music festival. Live bands play at some 8-10 different outdoor venues spread throughout the city Centrum. Each venue focuses on a different musical genre (e.g., jazz, blues, funk, rock/pop, indie, dance music and so on); there’s even a stage set aside for youth bands.
You decide what kind of music you’re in the mood to hear and then wander over to the stage featuring that style and enjoy. No charge.
And unlike in the US, there’s no ban on drinking alcoholic beverages outside, so you’re free to sip a beer, glass of wine or soda while you dance, bop, sway or merely listen.
A large carnival with plenty of booths, rides and attractions is set up nearby to keep youngsters, and those young at heart, entertained.
The city buzzes with the energy of several hundred thousand people converging on downtown, meandering from one venue to another, enjoying the atmosphere, festivities and late spring daylight (it stays light now until at least nine).
You’d think that would be enough, but the next morning everyone’s up early to celebrate Queen’s Day itself. And what else says ‘get your party groove on’ quite like a flea market?
I’m not kidding. All over the country, Dutchies are enjoying the one-day waiver of the fee usually required to conduct such a sale, and the Netherlands becomes one giant yard sale.
Not just any yard sale, mind you. One that combines street fair with food, drink, face-painting, music and bargains, continuing all day long.
The country is ablaze in orange, the national color. The flags go up (in an odd twist, they’re red, white and blue). Everyone hauls their old clothes, books, knick knacks and what have you to the designated community sale site, and the partying begins again.
Groups stake out their territory days in advance, marking their turf with colored chalk or colored duct tape.
Sellers take turns manning their site, keeping an eye on their sales and wandering around. It’s common to bring your own food and favorite beverages along to your blanket or scrap of sidewalk real estate; no sense missing a party while you haggle with potential buyers.
The winter season Oliebollen stands are hauled out and vendors make fresh doughnuts and cupcakes covered in orange frosting. The municipal government even makes room for some of the trams to keep running.
Not to mention more free outdoor concerts. If you own a boat (sailing, motor or otherwise), you decorate it up and spend the day on the canals, lakes, larger water ways or North Sea.
Others take to the parks, beaches and water for picnics, barbeques or house parties.
I cannot emphasize enough how big this holiday is. Think a combination of Mardi Gras (without the nudity), New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July rolled into one. Then put it on steroids, and kick it up another couple notches.
So in honor of Queen Beatrix, let me share with you photos from our neighborhood celebration up on ‘The Fred’ (our local shopping street).
Then you’ll understand why I made a point to send an email to a new expat family who lives in an apartment above a shop on The Fred, giving them a head up as to just what would be taking place outside their front door…