Long live King’s Day

King’s Day was on 27 April if you somehow missed it, and it was a really bizarre thing to experience as a non-Dutch person. The sheer amount of orange was enough to traumatize anyone, and my poor all-black wardrobe didn’t stand a chance.

Beeld Ton Toemen

I mention the orange because I think it represents something interesting about Dutch celebrations, which is the communal nature of national holidays and the huge level of participation in the Netherlands. We all know our national holidays and our local celebrations, but I have never seen so many people actively participate in a national day like they did for King’s Day. In my home country, people would scoff at and ignore customs like everyone wearing a specific colour for a specific person on a particular day. Some people may participate, but certainly not the majority. 

This is where the Dutch differ. Everyone I came across was immersed in the celebrations, wearing orange and chanting along to the Dutch-est songs I could imagine (which isn’t difficult, Afrikaans music is strikingly similar). The streets around my neighbourhood were completely filled with flea markets and stalls, to the point that I wondered who was left to buy things! So many people participate in the traditions and customs of national holidays which makes the day seem like one central party that everyone is invited to. 

This was really exciting to see, because the celebrations were very communal. I enjoy the public way Dutch parties happen, especially for events like King’s Day and carnival. Instead of everyone organising their own events and celebrating in their social circles, the Netherlands sees streets filled with strangers who embrace the celebration together and open up the party to anyone who is willing to join. I find this could be beneficial in building a spirit of community and connecting people who may never cross paths in their daily lives. It definitely was my experience. 

That being said, people were connecting more over mutual drunkenness than anything else. The communal public party is great for experiencing Dutch culture, but it’s not so great for your liver. At least I can say that there were warnings leading up to King’s Day, so everyone seemed well prepared to drink inhuman levels of beer on a Wednesday. 

It was a great (and bizarre) experience, and I’m glad to have had it. I don’t know how keen I am on the idea of the herstelbiertje though…I may need some convincing.

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