December 8, 2012


Since I live in a town with many people of Dutch descent, I decided to start by discussing the celebration of the Queen's birthday in the Netherlands. Koninginnedag, which means "Queen's Day," is celebrated on April 30, unless that is a Sunday. If it is a Sunday, Koninginnedag is celebrated the day before so that people can still have a day off work.

The tradition began in 1885 on Princess Wilhemina's fifth birthday. It was known as Prinsessedag (Princesses Day) until Wilhemina's succession to the throne five years later. Queen Wilhemina's birthday was August 31, and Queen's Day was always the last day of summer vacation. When Wilhemina's daughter, Juliana, became Queen in 1948, Koninginnedag was moved to her birthday, April 30. Juliana's daughter, Beatrix, has been Queen since 1980. Her birthday is in January, but Koninginnedag is still celebrated on April 30 as a way of honoring Queen Juliana, and also because many Queen's Day celebrations take place outdoors.

Orange is the official color of the Dutch royal family, and on Queen's Day everyone dresses in orange. This is known as the oranjegekte, or Orange Craze. Many people paint their faces, dye their hair, or wear mock crowns or other symbols of the royal family. Some even dress as the Queen. Cities are decked out with orange banners. People eat orange food and drink orange drinks, including oranje bitter, an alcoholic drink made from soaking orange peel in gin. Some restaurants have special Queen's Day menus.
Orange Craze in Amsterdam
Credits to

Celebrations begin the night before, Koninginnenacht or "Queen's Night." In bigger cities, particularly Amsterdam, there are music performances and street parties. Some celebrations last all night until the vrijmarkts (free markets) open in the morning. Some people sleep on the streets to keep their places for the free market.

The vrijmarkt is an important part of Koninginnedag. It is the only time Dutch people are allowed to sell items on the street without permits and without sales tax. People set up stalls to sell secondhand goods at low prices. Children take part in the vrijmarkt, selling old toys. The best deals of the year can be found at the free market. In bigger cities, the vrijmarkt is taken very seriously. In small towns, it has a more casual feel.

Children love Queen's Day because it means a day off school. They play traditional games such as koekhappen, a game in which children jump to eat cakes hanging from a string without using their hands, and spijker poepen, a game in which one must lower a nail dangling by a string tied around one's waist into a bottle.

The Queen and her family visit one or two cities on Queen's Day. The Queen is honored with a parade. In 2009, a man drove his car into the Queen's Day parade, barely missing the Queen's double decker bus and killing seven bystanders. This sparked debate over whether the Queen should continue the tradition of visiting cities on Queen's Day. However, Queen Beatrix said she would continue to visit her people and participate in parades, so that Queen's Day is still "the open and friendly celebration that it used to be," according to

In big cities, people gather in the city squares to eat, drink, and watch musical performances. The biggest musical acts of the year take place on Queen's Day at Museum Square in Amsterdam. One song often performed is Het Wilhelmus, a poem dating back to the 16th century. People often spontaneously sing this song on Queen's Day.

Koninginnedag is also celebrated in Aruba, Curacao, and Sint Maarten, countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. In recent years it has been celebrated in London and Madrid as well. In my hometown, children from one elementary school honor the Queen's Birthday in the annual Children's Parade, one of three parades in the local Tulip Festival.

People from all over the world travel to the Netherlands to participate in Queen's Day. The biggest celebration takes place in Amsterdam. More information on this can be found at

Birthday shoutouts to Elizabeth
Feel free to comment with a birthday shoutout for someone!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting and informative - I learned a lot!