King’s Day – there’s hardly a person in the Kingdom of the Netherlands who does not celebrate this holiday. Every square meter of this small land is decorated in all possible shades of orange on this special day. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest, from tourists and foreigners to natives, wears at least some small item of orange clothing or accessory. We are talking about King’s Day, Koningsdag, a public holiday celebrated on April 27 to mark the birthday of the current King of the Netherlands, Willem-Alexander van Oranje-Nassau.
The tradition of celebrating the monarch’s birthday dates back to the end of the 19th century. The liberal faction of the then government was looking for a way to awaken a sense of community among the Dutch people and to present the royal family in a positive light, since at that time the monarchy was not popular.
On August 31, 1885, Prinsessedag (Princess Day) was celebrated for the first time in honour of the four-year-old Princess Wilhelmina, the future Queen of the Netherlands. Why was the birthday of the king, Willem III, not celebrated? Wilhelmina’s father did not enjoy a good reputation, his daughter quite the opposite.
The first Prinsessedag celebrations took place in Utrecht, where little Wilhelmina had the opportunity to prepare for her future role as the queen of the nation, enthusiastically greeting the crowds of citizens and visitors. When Wilhelmina took the throne, the name of the holiday was changed to Koninginnedag, Queen’s Day. Starting with Wilhelmina, every successive Dutch monarch has celebrated their birthday with a bang. Since then, the holiday has been celebrated annually in every Dutch city.
King's Day today - 27 April
Willem-Alexander van Oranje-Nassau took the throne on April 30, 2013 after Queen Beatrice abdicated. Queen’s Day was renamed King’s Day, the aforementioned Koningsdag, which is celebrated as a national holiday throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands on April 27. The whole country starts to turn orange a few days before the celebration. Orange is the unofficial colour of the Netherlands, stemming from the Orange-Nassau dynasty. The Dutch word for orange is oranje. People decorate houses, bridges, street lamps and monuments with orange garlands, pennants and flags. On April 27, you will not see a person dressed in anything but this national colour – everyone is united by orange.
It is worth noting that many Dutch people usually start the celebration the day before, i.e., April 26, hanging out in local bars and pubs, and if the weather is good at various outdoor music events, of course, accompanied by sizzling sausages on the grill. This is known as Koningsnacht.
Fun and flea market
On the 27th, most citizens of the country enjoy a day off from work, and this free time is spent celebrating. The Dutch party or get involved in the so-called vrijmarkt, flea markets. Residents of cities and villages clear out their wardrobes and cupboards and sell their unused or well-used but still attractive items. During Koningsdag, all transactions that take place on the streets are tax-free and do not require a permit, which makes people eager to participate in flea markets.
In addition, there are festivals, concerts, races and lots of other events organised all over the country. Every year, the king and his family choose a different Dutch city to visit, where King’s Day is celebrated with a great deal of noise and enthusiasm. Here the royal family participates in many activities organised by local clubs, schools and groups, and the local television broadcasts this event throughout the day.
King’s Day attracts a lot of tourists from all over the world who want to see the unique celebrations first-hand and experience the Dutch culture.
PS If you are interested not only in Dutch culture, but also in the language, we invite you to our Dutch language courses. You will find more details here about our courses and a current list of courses.