Happy Pakjesavond

Pepernoten

The pepernoten are flowing and flying, the pakjes (presents) are all wrapped up with poems at the ready, the Piets are knocking on doors and windows and dropping off sacks of presents or bagging up naughty children, and the Sint is ready to head back to Spain.

It’s pakjesavond, the night when Sinterklaas and the Piets hand out presents to all the boys and girls who have been good this year. I don’t think we’ve been very good, so no presents for us tonight. That said, I did make sure we stocked up on the chocolate kruidnoten today so I’ll have enough to last me for the next few months. They’re perfect with a cup of tea or coffee!
Presents
Making Waves
Greetings

Happy Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas
Today is St. Nicholas Day, when all the Sinterklaas celebrations come to a sugar-filled finale. I missed the Sint’s intocht (arrival) this year and I think I’m being punished for it with a cold that won’t go away. No gifts for me this pakjesavond, except maybe a neti pot. If you’re celebrating, I hope you get some lekkere pepernoten or kruidnoten or a chocolate letter.

(Correction, 6 December is St. Nicholas Day. The Dutch celebrate St. Nicholas Eve, so to speak, on 5 December.)
Red BalloonPepernoten

The Arrival of King’s Day

Koninginnedag DomtorenSo, 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. BoatsMore OrangeKoninginnedagBand
Janskerkhof

Sinterklaas Is Coming to Town

Greetings
Hij komt!
Hij komt!

There will be lots of children shouting that on Sunday when Sinterklaas makes his arrival. Sunday is the intocht, AKA Sinterklaas’ arrival by boat from Spain.
Sinterklaas Intocht
Despite the recent issues with the canal walls near the Weerdsluis, it seems everything has been stabilized and Sinterklaas will be able to disembark in his normal spot. If the rain holds off, I may go see some of the festivities. The kid in me gets a kick out of it. Plus, it seems like a good time to get the first oliebollen of the season.

If you want to see the festivities in person, here’s this year’s schedule:
12.00 The boat parade begins at LedigErf
12.30 Weerdsluis festivities begin
13.00 Boats arrive at Weerdsluis
14.00 Begin the procession to Janskerkhof
14.30 Festivities at Janskerkhof

Feeling Free

Bevrijdingsdag
It’s been a week of important dates here in the Netherlands. First the last Queen’s Day, and now this weekend — May 4-5 — we’ve had Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenkingdag) and Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag). Remembrance Day (May 4) started as a day of remembrance for those killed during World War II, although now it’s generally a time to remember all who have died in conflict. It is marked each year by special ceremonies and two minutes of silence at 8 p.m.
Bevrijdingsdag

Remembrance Day is obviously a more somber day, whereas today, Liberation Day (May 5) commemorates the liberation of the Netherlands from the Nazis at the end of World War II. There are large festivals held in cities across the country and Utrecht is hosting a large one this year, in part due to the Vrede van Utrecht (Treaty of Utrect) ongoing celebrations.

Typically, the Dutch flag is only flown on a handful of official days/holidays. As a result, it’s much more noticeable when it is out, as it was this weekend. It seems that technically, it’s not meant to be flown on a Sunday. However, a number of people didn’t follow that particular rule today. Here’s a bit of info on when the flag should be flown:

The Dutch flag instruction also stipulates on which days the flag should be flown. Of course this includes a selection of popular festivities such as Queen’s Day (soon to be King’s Day) and formal occasions such as Liberation Day, royal birthdays, Remembrance Day, Veterans Day, Victory in Europe Day and Koninkrijksdag (Kingdom Day). On these days, the flag may be hoisted from sunrise and must be taken down before sunset. However, as the Dutch flag should never be flown on Sunday, if a celebration happens to fall on that day, the flag is raised the following Monday instead.

Considering the flags were flown on the Domtoren and the Domplein today — even while Prime Minister Rutte was visiting — I’m not sure how hard-and-fast some of those rules are. Anyway, I took a number of photos of the flags flying at various spots around town today. It’s a warm, beautiful day and a great day to celebrate freedom.

Bevrijdingsdag

Bevrijdingsdag

Bevrijdingsdag

Bevrijdingsdag

Bevrijdingsdag

Bevrijdingsdag

Bevrijdingsdag

Fijne Koninginnedag

Koninginnedag Domtoren
Today is Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), which is a national holiday. Tradition is to wear orange, visit the vrijmarkten (special flea markets on the street), drink a lot, listen to a lot of music (live and DJs) and generally have a gezellig time. I think we succeeded. Best of all, we got a respite from the rain and ended up with tons of sunshine and warm temperatures. Not a bad way to spend a Monday!