Friday, April 30, 2010

What's The Occasion? Queen's Day


Unless it falls on a Sunday, April 30th is celebrated in the Netherlands as Koninginnedag, or Queen's Day; if it should fall on a Sunday the official birthday of the country's Queen Beatrix is observed on the 29th...

It all began in August 1885, to celebrate the birthday of then-Crown Princess Wilhelmina; following the September 1948 ascension of her daughter Queen Juliana the celebration was shifted to the current date, and when Wilhelmina's granddaughter came to the throne in April 1980 it was decided to leave the Queen's Day where it is, since Queen Beatrix's birthday is January 31st.

The festivities begin with Koninginnenacht, or Queen's Night, held in major cities the night before since the mid-1990s, during which night clubs and bars often stay open all night to accomodate revellers; Queen's Night was originally instituted to forestall the emerging trend of Queen's Day rioting - the entirely sensible rationale being that a celebration was preferable to a curfew. Needless to say, the rioting ended.

Queen's Day itself is marked by the orange craze, or oranjegekte, during which the Dutch show their affection for their sovereign by wearing orange, the colour of the royal House of Orange-Nassau. The day also sees a 'vrijmarkt' or 'free-market' - a kind of country-wide yard sale; it has been estimated that 1.8 million people end up circulating about 200 million euros during the vrijmarkt - about 111 euros each on average - all of it a tax-free gift of Her Majesty's government. The event is also a boon to the less well-off, as any items still unsold by the end of the day tend to be left on the kerbside, and can provide rich pickings depending on the district.

Each year the Queen and Royal Family try to visit a different locale to celebrate Queen's Day. Only twice in her reign have the festivities had to be cancelled... In 2001 Hoogeveen and Meppel lost out as part of an effort to combat an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, but were visited the following year as a consolation; in 2009, of course, festivities across the country were cancelled as a result of an attack by Karst Tates in Apeldoorn.
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