As you may know, we celebrate the birthday of our King Willem Alexander on Thursday, April 27th! It’s a national holiday, which means that schools and offices are closed. This is the day that Dutchies go all out and everything and everyone is dressed in orange! Many people from all over the world come to the Netherlands just to celebrate King’s Day. Don’t miss it!
King’s Day is part of a long tradition. Did you know it started as Princess’s Day? On August 31st 1885, Princess Wilhelmina’s fifth birthday was celebrated by the entire nation. Her father, king Willem III, was very unpopular at the time and used this national day to bring the nation closer together. Needless to say, it worked like magic!
When she became Queen, the national day was renamed to Queen’s Day. Whenever there was a new monarch, the date of Queen’s Day was changed to fit their birthday. Queen Beatrix, however, decided that she would keep her mother’s birthday to celebrate Queen’s Day on as January was far too cold for festivities. Considering the Dutch weather, we were all very thankful she did! Three years ago, our new King was inaugurated and so we celebrated our very first King’s Day three years ago.
Normally on King’s Day, the King and the royal family visit festivities in one or two municipalities in a certain province. This year he will visit Tilburg, which will be broadcast live on national TV and radio. They don’t just come to watch the festivities, but also take part in it, which is typical for the very accessible Dutch royal family. Festivities include singing of the national anthem and other songs, the display of local customs or traditional clothing, dancing, live music, flea markets (which are very popular on this day, the flea market in Amsterdam is very famous and big), parties, games for the children, and games for grown-up people. These things are mainly organized by local associations, founded especially for this goal: the so-called ‘oranjevereniging’, (literally: orange association). Many people are dressed up in orange, the color of the Dutch royal family, and red-white-blue, the colors of the Dutch flag. Sometimes it looks like it’s carnival!
In Leiden it’s a big event as well. There is an official opening at 9 am near the city hall by the mayor of Leiden, and singing of the national anthem, ‘het Wilhelmus’. During the day, many festivities and markets are organized everywhere in Leiden so, what to choose? The best way to enjoy King’s Day is to stroll through the city with some friends, and just see what you run into; in every street there can be festivities, music, markets, games, or other things. Just go and see what happens! Be sure to wear something orange; if you don’t, you can be sure that you are the exception! King’s Day in Amsterdam is very famous, but also very crowded: trains to and from Amsterdam are overloaded, so keep that in mind!
Here some useful websites:
- Website of the local ‘orange association’ of Leiden, with the program for Leiden and pictures of last year. Click ‘Programma 2017‘ to see more details.
- The King’s day wikipedia page
- Festivals on King’s Day throughout the country
And finally, don’t forget to buy some orange tompouces at Jacobs between 8 am and noon on the 27th, and listen to this heartwarming and hilarious tribute to the king before you leave this page.