What are you up to on April 27th? Not sure? Well, you’re obviously not Dutch, because everyone in The Netherlands knows exactly what they’re up to on April 27th (quite a bit of the 26th and the 28th too). It’s King’s Day and the entire country pitches up to party in the street, on bridges, down canals, across beaches, around parks and basically in every available space. Under the consent of the King, empty your sheds, fill up the streets and, despite the rain, make as much tax-free money as you possibly can. In other words, if anyone wants to sell anything they possess, they simply set up a carpet or table on the street on King’s Day and sell, sell, sell. The Dutch have a history of trading and selling and buying is one of the big King’s Day traditions. Live gigs, dance parties, and street music kick off all over from the evening of the 26th. Orange is almost compulsory and it’s rude not to at least sport a splash of the colour somewhere about your person on King’s Day. Water plays plenty a big role in the festivities, naturally. And the man himself, King Willem-Alexander takes his family on tour, traditionally visiting at least one town.
With all the fuss, you may wonder how is the King celebrating his own anniversary. Will he too be dressed in orange from top to toe? And his wife? How about the daughters? Sorry to disappoint you, no one from the Orange house will be wearing a nationalistic costume. But they will surely mix in with the crowd. The royals will be seen in the flea markets of a designated city in the Netherlands. This year Tilburg is the city of their choice.
Most countries with royalty celebrate their monarch’s birthday with pomp and ceremony. The Dutch, in contrast, hold a giant open-air market to celebrate ‘Koningsdag’ and paint the town orange.
Guidebooks constantly marvel at the quaint King’s Day (Koningsdag) customs, when the supposedly reserved Dutch let their hair down and celebrate the monarch and the Royal House by covering everything in orange, buying and selling as if it was still the 1600s, drinking lots of alcohol, and dancing to wide varieties of music with intriguing street performances. Welcome to King’s Day in the Netherlands. This year is no different, as the Netherlands gets ready to celebrate King’s Day on Thursday 27 April 2017, and let the oranjegekte (orange madness) take over. Orange is the colour of choice in tribute to the Royal family, the House of Orange-Nassau, and it’s the first step to immersing yourself in the King’s Day party. It is a crazy thing to witness: an entire city partying, drinking, eating, selling knickknacks, cruising down the canals in packed boats, blasting music around every corner and (mostly) all dressed in orange.
Oranje bitter – a bright orange liqueur – is the typical drink for toasting the king on King’s Day. The colour comes from soaking orange peels in jenever (a type of gin), originally created in the 1620s to celebrate the Dutch Prince Fredrick Henry’s victory over Spanish rule and has increasingly become associated with the royal family since William of Orange became the first king. You’ll hear crowds singing the anthem of the day, Het Wilhelmus, a poem about the life of William of Orange and his fight for the Dutch nation, written in 1574.
For the Dutch who live outside the Netherlands there is still hope as there are many venues in city’s all over the word: in Zürich we have a few. My personal favourite: Nelson Pub. No public holiday in Switzerland on the 27th. Most of the Dutch I know however, will happily wear orange today – even in Office.