Every country has their own annual nationwide celebration. Of course, as the majority of Manapop’s writers are from Canada, we here celebrate Canada day on the first of July. There’s the usual festivities of fireworks and parties held downton and in bars and what not. There’s also Independence Day, but I’m sure most of you already know about it. Just recently, I was in Europe yet again, in Sweden and in Holland. Being in Sweden was how I was able to to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron so early and pound a review out for you all. I was there mostly for a friend’s wedding in Dordrecht; however, I was traveling during a nationwide celebration in Holland known as Koningsdag (King’s Day). Koningsdag is a celebration of the birth of King Wilhelm-Alexander, and takes place on the 27th of April, the 26th if the 27th falls on a Sunday. So what sets this nationwide celebration apart from others? I’ll admit that I have never been in the US on the 4th of July, but I was there this year to take in the sheer craziness and the sheer scale of the day in Rotterdam, and boy, it was a blast.
For one, they don’t limit it to just that day. Celebrations start as early as the evening before, and if the event falls on a Sunday, then Koningsdag is celebrated on the 26th. This year, it fell on a Monday. And it was a few days before I was due to fly back home to Edmonton too. Before leaving, my friends Jorrin and Marcela- the friends being married- mentioned the event to me some time back in winter 2014, when chatting with me and the select few other friends from the Iron Maiden Fan Club they were inviting. Curious, I googled the day and found out just how massive of a deal it is. This sounded like my idea of a celebration. Drunken madness? Check. Parties? Check. But there’s more to it than that. People sell their old stuff and also wear orange on that day, and celebrate their pride in being Dutch.
So why should you experience Koningsdag? Well, there’s many reasons, but for the sake of length, I’ll narrow it down to just 5.
5. It’s The Best Time to Go to Holland
Alright, so that doesn’t have much to do with the holiday, but you’ll be hard pressed finding a time of year in any country where people are in more of a party mood. Now, of course this wasn’t my first time being in Holland, as I was there in summer of 2013. But almost immediately after stepping off the ICE Train into Amsterdam Central station, I noticed a huge difference in atmosphere.
There were more people walking the streets at close to midnight, and more English speaking tourists. Walking up and down the streets of Amsterdam at 1 in the morning, you’d swear that it was much earlier in the evening. Restaurants are still open until 4 AM. And I don’t mean just those Doner-Kebap places; actual bars and grills. Food carts are still open and bars aren’t even anywhere near closing time yet. Additionally, people still walk streets and there are demonstrations going on in the middle of the road. People are still taking boat rides in the canals.
To compare, in summer of 2013, there was maybe 25% of this going on at the same time of night. Now maybe things have changed since then, but the impression I get is that most, if not all of Holland really anticipates this event all year around. Which is something I wish I saw more of in my own country.
4. Everybody Can Celebrate, Even Non-Dutch
The same can be said for most national celebrations, but given the warm and extremely welcoming nature of the Dutch, I can’t name a country more open to foreigners helping celebrate national pride than the Netherlands. No matter who is there on that day, no matter what country you’re from, you’re Dutch for a day. It’s absolutely endearing to be part of, in fact. I was at quite a few bars on both Kingsnight and Kingsday. I’d talk to people from all over the globe at those bars, which was something that was really cool. They all wore orange, drank, and danced to the music playing at the bars. And it felt really awesome to be part of a crowd rather than just a foreigner who just so happens to be there on a national holiday.
3. A Sea of Orange
Most celebrations usually have people walking around in the colours of their country, but Koningsdag is an interesting case. Most people dress in orange. And that includes everything- from wigs, to hats, to lais, to pants and shirts, you name it. Never have I seen so many people dressing in one whole colour. And interestingly enough, I forgot to bring some orange- but had a few days before Koningsdag to get some orange. In fact, every 3rd store or so had orange shirts on for ten euros, and amusing slogans like “THE WALKING DRUNK” or the one I got, “EIN BIER!” (cropping the “ein” from Heineken). So on the day I was bound for the beautiful city of Rotterdam, I popped in and got the “Ein Bier” shirt on my way to the train station.
The reason for orange is to honour the house of the House of Orange-Nassau, which rules over Holland. The Dutch often refer to this as “oranjegkte”, meaning “orange madness”. And it’s not just limited to attire- there’ll be orange coloured drinks, orange food, you name it. It’s absolutely thrilling to look out the window and see the streets filled with orange- and even “orange contests” will be held, in addition to people judging your orange attire. And people will even wear Orange-ified superhero costumes- it can be quite crazy, really!
2. Making New Friends
A member of the Orange committee said in 2011:
“Friendships—and community—will be formed. For me that’s really what Queen’s Day is all about. It’s not an outburst of patriotism, it’s not even about the popularity of the royal family. It’s about a sense of belonging. For one day, everybody is the same in Holland. Bright orange and barmy.”
And he couldn’t be more right. No matter where you’re from, on that day you’ll have new friends to hang out with. I myself had that experience- on Koningsnacht, I ended up making 6 new Dutch friends at a bar in the near Keerweer in Rotterdam. We went to a number of bars and tried to get into three of them- one of which we succeeded getting into. We had all sorts of crazy conversations and drank a lot. And to top it all off, we went for Eastern food as it was nearing 4 AM. And it was fun to hang around with them- they were hilarious and loved good times. They had great senses of humour, and better yet, all of them have that personality that make you feel like you’ve known them for a long time.
And then on Koningsdag, I bumped into a few of them by chance and went for some dinner at Burger King. We weren’t as drunk as we were the night before, but we had a great time regardless.
The point is, you’re bound to make some new friends along the way. Be it at a party or at the bar, or even in the mass flea market.
1. The Party Level is Like No Other
Seriously. You look out the window first thing when you wake up, and the first thing you see is people in orange shirts in the streets. Then you step outside and find liberal amounts of beer taps set up in the street, and that’s just the beginning. People partying everywhere and selling their old stuff is to be found on almost every corner. Magic shows and Orange costume contests. What’s not to love?
It’s arguably biggest in Amsterdam, but in Rotterdam where I was, even there it was huge. There wasn’t a single corner that wasn’t in the party mood. And the fact that this starts the night before is an even bigger testament to just how much the Dutch like to celebrate. In fact, Cafe Keerweer, a gay bar in Rotterdam, has an event if Koningsdag falls on a weekend called Koningsdag Weekend Parade. It’s held outside the bar and has musicians, strippers and drag queens- and you can even hear it from a few roads down too. The event finishes at 11 PM every night, but the party is far from over by then!
I totally loved Koningsdag when I went and would go back again. It’s the kind of celebration where anything goes, and there are no limits. It makes Canada Day look like a walk in the park with your grandmother. It’s one day where everyone from whatever country can celebrate together, and tons of crazy stuff is about to happen. Sure, you can go to the States for the 4th of July, but even that is probably nothing compared to the pure party atmosphere that Koningsdag gives off.