On the 31st of August, 1885, the Dutch celebrated their first ‘princess day’, in honour of the birthday of the young princes Wilhelmina. This was organized with the aim of national unity. When Wilhelmina’s father William III of the Netherlands passed away, princess-day became Queensday. Wilhelmina was only 5 years of age when she became queen, but her mother Emma was regent of the Kingdom until Wilhelmina turned 18. Queensday has been celebrated every year since, but with the inauguration of our new king the name changed to ‘Kingsday’.
The event itself has changed a bit over the years. Wilhelmina never personally took part in the festivities, whereas her successor Juliana invited ordinary citizens to visit her in the palace gardens. Beatrix, our queen until last year, did things differently and personally went to visit a different municipality each year, as does our king today.
This year, on the 26th of April 2014, our ever first Kingsday was celebrated, which I obviously couldn’t miss. I stayed in Holland specifically to be able to attend these festivities.
I woke up early in the morning, and excited I put on my orange leggings and orange top. For those who don’t know, the last name of the Dutch royal family is ‘of Orange’, therefore during this national day the streets are coloured orange by people dressing up in this colour. The same tradition takes place when the Dutch national football team has to play in the European or World championships.
During Kingday, the centre of Amsterdam is literally packed. The main characteristic of this festival is the flea market. Days in advance, the streets are full of signs saying certain places will be occupied. Loads of people go out and sell their old possessions such as books, but also a lót of food.
Contrary to most other national festivals, Kingsday isn’t celebrated for a better reason than the king’s birthday. No glorious revolution or liberation took place on this day. People are literally just celebrating, partying and having a flea market.
My mum was one of the people selling things on the streets, she had quite a few books for sale but spent most of her time selling homemade pies, quiche, caipirinhas and other drinks. I never knew that she had such a trading instinct, but she seems to be completely in her element. She talked to everyone walking by and I think she did very good business!
My boyfriend and I started our morning by checking out her spot and eating some apple pie for breakfast. Kingsday is not a day that you can be concerned with your diet, everyone sells home-made cakes and drinks and restaurants have stalls with cheap food outside. Therefore, my boyfriends’ aim of the day was to eat as much as possible, and mine to buy as many books as possible. I must say, he completed his goal much better than I did, as most people would get rid of only their old, probably least favourite, books. Nevertheless, walking around with a mission, and checking everybody’s stalls out was incredibly fun.
Halfway through the day, we rested a bit at my grandma´s house. She lives on the first floor in a canal house, so we could watch all the people walk by while resting our legs and having some hot chocolate. I could tell how much my grandma enjoyed our visit, as it reminded her of old times. As a child, my family and I would always go to her place and sell things ourselves in front of her house. I even played the piano and my brother the guitar for some years. Therefore we all have really nice memories of Queensday at the ‘Prinsengracht’. After a while we went on with our journey through Amsterdam.
The only thing that was massively different this year was that all the big parties and dj’s were allocated to stages outside of the city centre. Apparently, there had been a few fights and complaints of nuisance previous years, so the local council decided to keep the event in the city a bit more family friendly and move the bigger parties to further away.
Therefore, I noticed that, apart from the Jordaan where it was extremely busy, very lively and fun, the city seemed a lot less crowded. The Jordaan is a district in the centre of Amsterdam where my roots are. It’s a former working-class neighborhood, where many folk singers come from. My boyfriend and I spent the whole day walking, who knows how many kilometers, through the whole city. But of all places, the Jordaan stood out by far.
I was most disappointed by ‘het Vondelpark’, the big city-park. This year the flea market was forbidden inside the park, so there was nothing to see inside unfortunately, except some people relaxing in the grass.
At the end of the day, my legs hurt everywhere. I was happy to go out for dinner with Chey and his parents, and some family-friends to celebrate his parents 30 year anniversary and our 3 year anniversary. We had some nice Indian food, and when we got back home we were too exhausted to still go to pubs with all the orange people. However, we still heard the music and could sense there was definitely a good vibe going on!