Queen’s Day

I have hazy memories from my earliest childhood of the festivity and excitement of Koninginnedag, Queen’s Day, which is not the Queen’s birthday, but never mind that now.

I’ve stopped going to Amsterdam for the celebration, way too busy. If you need to pee, you’ll soon be in dire straits — and this is in Amsterdam! I’ve enjoyed previous Queen’s Days in Almere. Multicultural and playful, just as it ought to be.

Bunch of junk.The core of the celebration is a national free-market license for all Dutch citizens. Kids and parents spread their blankets on the pavements of the high streets and sell old junk for next to nothing. Clothes, electronics, arts and crafts, sometimes surprisingly useful, but mostly just colorful junk.

This year was a bit of a muted affair, I found. It’s disappointingly cold for this time of year, with fickly fluctuating temperatures that surely led to hundreds of kids, parents and independent entrepreneurs sitting on their blankets for hours with inadequate summer attire. Whatever, though. We’re Dutch, we don’t know any different!

There should have been more music, though. In previous years you couldn’t turn a corner without running into a marching band or tripping over blond, blue-eyed boys jamming on djembe drums, but there was fairly little of that going on.

Nonetheless, it was a grand afternoon, and we closed the day with an afternoon barbecue, medium-cold wind be damned.

This year was a very special occasion. A couple of months ago, Queen Beatrix announced her abdication, and today would also see the coronation of her son and successor, King Willem-Alexander of Orange-Nassau. There had been some talk that he might take the throne as King Willem IV, but I’m glad he’s keeping his hyphen. Alexander is a fine second name!

After over a century of Queens, our country will once more have a King. The Republican movement was in the news again, stating that the monarchy is an outmoded tradition that had no place in modern life, but as with every year their protests amounted to very, very little. The Dutch are a practical people; the monarchy is a tradition we all grew up with, it doesn’t conflict with democracy (something the new King addressed with emphasis in his inauguration speech), and of course the parties are worth looking forward to.

Rapt anticipation.Beatrix, now a Princess, sat on the front row chatting with her granddaughters while the new King and his Argentinan wife Máxima were inaugurated. The term ‘coronation’ is sometimes used in this context, though it isn’t quite appropriate. When the monarchy was recreated, the prevailing Reformed sentiments of the time considered the actual business of crowning to be too much of an implication of Divine Right, so the crown and other accoutrements were simply on display on a nice table.

It was quite an uplifting experience, standing with hundreds of fellow Hollanders, watching the ceremony on a big screen while some kids completely ignored it in favour of the bungee-trampolines they’d been standing in line for. Surinaman families singing the national anthem, the Wilhelmus, far louder and more accurately than the rest of us, Turkish women in orange hijabs, exemplifying the diversity and fraternity of our society.

And orange everywhere. I love my country.


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