King’s Day or Koningsdag in Dutch is a national holiday in the Netherlands celebrating the reigning monarch’s birthday. On the 27th of April, the entire country celebrates King Willem-Alexander. This tradition started with Queen Beatrix in the 19th century when she decided to keep the celebration of her mother’s birthday which was April 30, 1909. Whenever a new monarch is appointed, the date changes accordingly. On King’s Day, most people have a day off work and honor the monarch with a number of traditions.
Royals Tour the Country
Following the tradition started by his mother in 1981, King Willem-Alexander and the members of the royal family visit one or two cities. Each year one city is chosen to host the official celebration. There are parades, live performances, musical acts and all types of exciting events as entertainment. As King’s Day comes to a close the royal family heads back to the palace in the Hague and waves to the crowd from their balcony.
The Dress Code is Orange
You may notice that people are dressed in orange and while it’s true that orange is the national color, this stems from the royal family’s name, the House of Orange-Nassau. Orange in Dutch also refers to the color of Willem-Orange, who was the original founder of the Netherlands. On Kings Day it doesn’t matter if it’s an orange dress, shirt, face or dyed hair – the point is that you must showcase something orange. Even the food changes color: the national delicacy ‘Tompouce’ for the day turns… orange. And in recent years the orange-colored beer has made an entrance, similar to the green variant seen on St. Patrick’s Day.
The Ultimate Party Holiday
King’s Day is the liveliest holiday of the year because of the massive partying nationwide. Although the point is to honor the King’s birthday, sometimes it seems like others use it as a reason to let loose and go crazy (honestly who wouldn’t want to). To put it simply: if you’re single, King’s Day is all about drinking, going out and partying with your friends. For families it’s about spending quality time together and senior citizens will celebrate in a more relaxed style, such as watching the parade on television.
King’s Night or Koningsnacht is when the first of celebrations begin (and main parties) because the day after King’s Day is a working day. Everybody goes into the streets to have friends over, bbq, dance, and get drunk together. The major cities such as Utrecht, Rotterdam and Amsterdam will host a party. King’s Day in Amsterdam is particularly a mass celebration. Native Dutch and tourists from all over the world come to celebrate in the capital. The streets are packed with a sea of orange, buzzing music and lots of booze. People will also go onto boats and drink and party there while cruising the canals. The main issue with boat parties is the fact that there are no bathrooms – so you’ll have to get creative or wait until you dock. However, it’s not only Amsterdam but each city and community will have celebrations of their own.
Another tradition and one of the most popular attractions of King’s Day are the flea markets or the vrijmarkt. You will find people in any city or square selling their knick-knacks and hidden treasures or just looking for a great bargain. There’s no official process for doing this – It’s as simple as going on the street, putting a rug down and taking all the stuff from the garage or basement and attempting to sell it. Keep in mind that some of these items go for a few euros so I wouldn’t price anything exceptionally high.
Amsterdam holds the biggest flea market in the Netherlands but other major cities will have their own that rivals this. At the flea market, you may notice kids performing on the street to earn extra money. They will bring their own instruments like a keyboard or drum kit and play for the crowd. There are also games and raffles that you can participate in to win a prize.
Final Thoughts on King’s Day
No matter what part of the world you come from, I think one should experience King’s Day at least once in their lifetime. It’s such a special time where everyone comes together and celebrates Dutch heritage in full swing. Just make sure you bring something orange and show up on the right day!