King’s Day, a unique celebration

Last Saturday it was that time again, King's Day. April 27th, the day when the whole Netherlands turns orange. The day of flea markets, Aperol Spritz, beer, orange clothing, tompoezen and festivals. The day when Amsterdam almost doubled its population, with the canals filled with party boats. King's Day is celebrated big in our small country, and that's quite unique.

King's Day is one of the few celebrations where the whole country comes together. A party where even the old Dutch games like ‘spijkerpoepen' and ‘koekhappen’ are brought back every year. Even across the border, Dutch King's Day is celebrated. Streets turn orange beyond the border, there are Dutch delicacies, and you hear Dutch music. This ranges from Canada to Curaçao to Australia.

The fact that Kings Day is also celebrated on April 27th in these countries is thanks to the ties the Netherlands has worldwide. These ties are cultural, political, or economic in nature. Or the ties have arisen from a profound history. An example of these historical ties is Canada. Canada played a significant role in the liberation of the Netherlands during World War II. Additionally, Ottawa was the residence of Queen Juliana and her children for most of the war. For this reason, King's Day is also celebrated 6500 kilometres away from the border of the Netherlands in Canada.

Australia is another country where the national holiday is celebrated. Australia has the largest number of Dutch immigrants in the world. This has to do with the post-World War II period. In the Netherlands, things did not look good economically, so many Dutch people chose to emigrate. In Australia, there was a high demand for labour, as a result, many Dutch people chose to emigrate there. Additionally, there are plenty of backpackers and expatriates in Australia who also like to celebrate the Dutch holiday there.

Almost every Dutch embassy also celebrates King's Day. Add to that the fact that about 150 thousand Dutch people move abroad annually, taking this piece of culture with them. So it's not really surprising that the orange sea of people on April 27th is not only seen in the Netherlands.

If the birthday of the Dutch King is not celebrated, how do other countries celebrate their royal houses?

The United Kingdom celebrates Trooping the Colour on the Saturday before or after June 10th. This is the birthday of the Sovereign, in this case King Charles. During the holiday, more than 1400 soldiers, 200 horses, and 400 musicians gather for a military parade. The ceremony takes place at Horse Guards Parade, and from Buckingham Palace, the royal family moves in a parade to this location. Each year, crowds of people gather along the streets to cheer the royal family.

Belgium also celebrates King's Day, but with a different approach than in the Netherlands. Since 1866, the holiday has been celebrated every year on November 15th in honour of the birthday of Leopold II. In our neighbouring country, it is not a public celebration, and therefore not an official day off for Belgians. On November 15th, the royal family attends a civil ceremony consisting of speeches and testimonies. Later that day, deserving compatriots are honoured in parliament. The Belgian king and queen are not present themselves on this day, as the Belgian court believes they cannot celebrate themselves.

In both Denmark and Sweden, the king/queen is celebrated with a balcony scene. The royal family gathers on the balcony of their palace and is cheered by the present crowd.

So it is quite unique how we, the Dutch, celebrate our king. Every year it is a unique experience with the whole country. Everybody comes together in their most orange outfit. It is a holiday that is different from every other holiday. The best part about it? For kids it is the flea market, for some it is the festivals, for others it is the tompoes, and for others it is being together with friends. King’s Day, see you next year! //

Programma Koningsnacht en Koningsdag. (2024, 25 april). KOBR: Het Nieuws Uit Bodegraven-Reeuwijk.
Trooping the Colour. (z.d.). The British Army.,being%20enjoyed%20by%20millions%20worldwide.
Van Canada tot Australië: koningsdag kent geen grenzen. (z.d.).
Van Hal, S. (2024, 25 april). Zó vieren andere landen “Koningsdag”. Blauw Bloed.