Last week, on Good Friday no less, I talked about how Dutch holidays are centered around religious holidays. There are two exceptions and one of those is about to take place – King’s Day. King’s Day started out over one hundred years ago (1890 to be exact for the history geeks amongst you) as Princess’s Day to celebrate the fifth birthday of (Crown) Princess Wilhelmina and became Queen’s Day when she ascended to the throne. When Wilhelmina’s daughter, Juliana, ascended to the throne in 1948, the holiday was moved to her birthday which was April 30th. When Beatrix ascended to the throne, she kept the April 30th date as her birthday is on January 31st and who wants to have a huge outside party in January?
Beatrix abdicated in 2013 and Willem-Alexander ascended to the throne. (He then proceeded to anger the stuffy historians by refusing to take the name Willem IV. His response? I’m not a number!) The holiday then became known as King’s Day and the date changed to Willem-Alexander’s birthday, which is April 27th.
I just have to point out – for those who might have missed it – that the reigning monarch of the Netherlands for over one hundred years was a queen – a woman. And, unlike the United Kingdom where hoops had to be jumped through for the ascension of Queen Elizabeth, the Dutch accepted the eldest daughter of the monarch as the crown princess without reservation. In fact, when Willem-Alexander became King and his wife, Maxima, was crowned as queen next to him many protested that she should not have the title queen.
I seriously love this country sometimes. Getting upset that the former monarch might be offended by her son’s wife gaining the title of queen? That’s pretty much the definition of girl power right there. And having a century of queens ruling the country? And the 20th Century wasn’t exactly an easy one to maneuver. Oh yeah, I love this country.
Which leads me to my embarrassing moment of the day. When I was researching Buried Appearances, we were living in Germany. I planned a trip to the Netherlands to do some onsite research (and okay maybe visit friends and relatives and have a good time as well). Anyway, I was checking opening times of the Jewish History Museum in the Amsterdam and saw they were closed on King’s Day. I assumed this was some Jewish holiday of which I was unaware and proceeded to spend an hour researching Jewish holidays before I remembered that Beatrix had abdicated the thrown to her son who therefore became king. Major head slap.
So, what’s King’s Day all about anyway? Having a good time and selling crap, preferably while wearing orange. Yes, you read that right. The day is a free market during which anyone can sell their crap … er … gently used goods. This is serious business folks. In neighborhoods, kids will get up hours before the crack of dawn to get a good location. In city centers, it’s a more professional endeavor and taken very seriously. In addition to gently used goods, college students will raise money for their fraternities (these are not just men by the way) by setting up games that usually involve drinking and some form of dare devilness.
Onto my second somewhat embarrassing moment of the day. My first year in the Netherlands, I insisted the hubby take me to Amsterdam for Queen’s Day. It’s The Place to be on Queen’s Day. In addition to the free market, there are concerts, boat rides, food stalls, and all kinds of events. But that’s not all there is because millions of Dutch and tourists descend on Amsterdam for the festivities. I hadn’t counted on that. The early hours were fine except that slowly but surely it was getting more and more crowded. I’m not good in crowds. Not. At. All. At some point, I told the hubby I wanted to go home (it was not a suggestion).
The train station in Amsterdam is smack dab in the center. Getting there was not fun. We ended up on the Damrak – the main street leading to the station from the palace – and we literally could not move. It was that crowded. I was in full-on panic mode trying to crawl under tables of wares. Fortunately, I spotted a Dutch policeman – thank god the Dutch are so tall – and started trailing him. Apparently people will move out of the way for a police officer with a weapon but not a woman screaming and carrying on. Whatever. We eventually made it to the square in front of the station with a trail of people behind us – all of us following the policeman as he made his way through the street! Needless to say, I haven’t been back to the city for Queen’s or King’s day.
If I manage to get over my fear of crowds, I’ll post some pictures of King’s Day over on my Instagram account. Stay tuned.