Before moving to the Netherlands, the colour orange was never really found in my wardrobe. It just wasn’t my colour of choice. However, when you marry a Dutch man, you soon learn to love this particular colour. For in the Netherlands, the colour orange is literally royal and loved by all.
Oranjegekte (Orange craze) or Oranjekoorts (Orange fever) is a phenomenon in the Netherlands that occurs during major sporting events, especially international football championships, and during Koningsdag (Kings Day), an annual national holiday celebrating the King’s birthday on the 27th of April. During these particular days, the country and everyone in it is drowned in orange. You wear it, eat it, and see it everywhere. Entire towns and cities are decorated in orange. Orange is the traditional color of the Dutch royal family. The lineage of the current dynasty — the House of Oranje-Nassau — dates back to Willem van Oranje (William of Orange), born in 1533, he led the Dutch to several successes in the fight against the Spanish. He was then assassinated at the age of 51 in Delft after being declared an outlaw by the Spanish King.
Note: King’s Day was previously known as Queen’s Day, and was celebrated every year on 30 April. After the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander in 2013, the date was brought forward by a few days to 27 April, his birthday.
With this year’s Kings Day approaching, I thought this would be a great opportunity to explain what Kings Day is like here in the Netherlands. Everyone is in good spirits, ensuring an enjoyable atmosphere for all, and the whole day is full of joyful open-air festivities such as street carnivals, markets, singing, dancing, boat parades, concerts and fireworks.
There are also certain things that the majority of people in the Netherlands will do, without fail, every year on Kings Day.
Firstly, dress in orange…
Then, hang out your Dutch flag (with an orange pennant above it) in honour of the royal family, particularly the King on his birthday…
Eat delicious orange treats with your coffee or tea in the afternoon. In our home town, the locals will queue up outside the bakery at the crack of dawn in order to get their hands on some of their award winning tompoezen (custard pastries)…
Buy orange flowers….
and of course, visit the local flea markets to find some great bargains…
The vrijmarkt (literally ‘free market’) is a nation wide flea market where all the locals have an opportunity to sell their used goods. Koningsdag is the one and only day of the year that the Dutch government permits sales on the street without a permit and without the payment of value added tax. Early in the morning, you can secure your piece of pavement with a picnic rug of some sort. Then you can lay out all of your second hand items you would like to sell that day on your rug and wait for the parades of people to begin walking by. Its a nice way for the local children to make a little money and a great excuse to get rid of any unused or unwanted clothes, books or toys etc.
Just as the Queen did during her reign, the King celebrates his birthday in a different Dutch city each year. This year the royal family will visit Groningen. They will join a parade through the town and partake in the local festivities. You can watch this live on tv around lunch time.
Then last but not least…. Party! Kings Day in the Netherlands is certainly one big party, particularly in Amsterdam, where the party is also on the water!
The Dutch can be heard to sing, “Oranje boven, Oranje boven, Leve de koning én Maxima!” (Orange on top, Orange on top, Long Live the King and Maxima!)
Actually, even my Bachelorette Party (Hens Night) in Australia in 2007 was themed with the colour orange in honor of my soon-to-be Dutch husband! My bridesmaids surprised me with orange shoes, an orange boa, orange clothes, an orange veil and ummm..as you see below..please excuse my certain large friend which I had to carry around all night…
If you live in the Netherlands, there is no avoiding the colour orange, you are encouraged to simply embrace it. Furthermore, it does not take long before you find great pride in wearing it.
If you ever get the opportunity to visit the Netherlands during Kings Day on April 27, you will surely be in for a treat!
Kristen – ‘Proud wearer of orange’