So, the inaugural King’s Day (Koningsdag) celebrations are beginning, as stages and oceans of beer are being put in place across the country. It’s the first time there’s been a King’s Day; it has always been Queen’s Day since the holiday’s inception. However, after Beatrix stepped down last year and Willem-Alexander ascended the throne, we now have a king for the first time in more than 100 years.
It turns out there’s an Utrecht link to the holiday. It was an Utrecht newspaper editor who first organized Princess Day for Wilhelmina in 1885, as a celebration of her fifth birthday. The celebration eventually evolved into Queen’s Day once she succeeded her father, King Willem III in 1890.
Originally, Queen’s Day was celebrated in August, the month of Wilhelmina’s birth. When her daughter, Juliana, took the throne, it then moved to her birth date, 30 April. When Juliana’s daughter, Beatrix, took the throne, she decided to keep the April celebration date, since the weather is much nicer than her birth month of January. Willem-Alexander’s birthday is 27 April, which is when King’s Day will usually be celebrated. However, since the 27th is a Sunday this year, they decided to move the celebration to the 26th. Next year it will be on the 27th. I kind of wish he’d just kept the 30 April date to avoid confusion. Now it’s starting to feel a bit like trying to figure out when Easter is!
The party actually starts tonight with King’s Night festivities that usually include bands playing outdoors throughout the city, with plenty of covers of Golden Earring songs and Shocking Blue’s “Venus” (both are Dutch bands, if you didn’t know). The vrijmarkt also starts tonight at 18:00 (6 PM), in which the northern part of the city center becomes a massive flea market. Lots of people like to go early to find the best items, before everything gets picked over. It’s particularly useful if you’re looking for a specific item.
Tomorrow, which is the official King’s Day, will see more of the same, with lots of parties across the country. Throughout it all, there will be more orange than you’ve ever seen in your life, as the Dutch royal family is part of the Orange-Nassau family.