A Right Royal Party!

Tired of all the Royal Wedding planning in the UK? Fancy a Royal Party with a difference? If so, then read on… 🙂

In neighbouring the Netherlands preparations are in full swing for something completely different.  It is the annual celebration on the 30th of April, when the Dutch celebrate Koninginnedag, (‘Queen’s Day’).  Having grown up in the Netherlands, I have great memories of the street parties, village parades and the waving of the red, white and blue, topped with orange streamers.

Marijke as Pipi Longstocking.jpg

Marijke as Pipi Longstocking

Athletics Clubs would proudly show off their members’ talents, pony clubs would turn our spotless riders on ponies with manes and tails plaited in national colours. Anyone able to walk or cycle would turn out dressed up as their favourite character in the hope of winning a prize. Inspired by the latest favourite TV show, my sister Marijke once dressed up as Pippi Longstocking, complete with pony and sticking-up plaits(courtesy of a bit of garden wire). I don’t think she won, but we all had great fun helping her to get prepared for the big event.

The ‘Founder of the Feast’

The history of Koninginnedag dates back to 1885, when Princess Wilhelmina celebrated her 5th birthday on the 31st of August.

Queen Wilhelmina.jpgIn those days it was called Prinsessedag (Princess Day). Because the 31st of August also heralded the end of the summer holidays, it was the last opportunity for children to have a party, and it quickly became a very popular event – despite the fact that Queen Wilhelmina rarely attended the parties. After her coronation in 1890, the day became known as Koninginnedag.

Queen Juliana

When Princess Juliana became Queen in 1948, the date was changed to 30th April to coincide with her birthday.

Queen Juliana Stamp.jpg

During her reign, Queen Juliana celebrated the event by hosting an annual garden party at her home, Paleis Soestdijk. The party was open to to any member of the public and long lines of well-wishers would queue up to congratulate her, leave floral tributes or give her presents – the whole thing took hours… Before long the day became a proper national holiday and a day off work for everyone but the queen! Those who couldn’t attend the garden party would watch the event on the television, before going out to participate in their neighbourhood celebrations.

New Queen – New Routine

When Princess Beatrix became Queen on the 30th April 1980, she decided that the date of the Koninginnedag celebrations would stay the same, in honour of her mother, Juliana.

Did you know that….

Descendants of Johan William Friso (1687-1711), Royal Prince of Orange of the Netherlands can be found on every Royal Throne in Europe.  This includes the Royal Families of Belgium, Denmark, Lichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Norway, Sweden, Spain, United Kingdom and of course the Netherlands themselves. Quite a line-up… 🙂

But that was not the only change. Unlike her mother, who received well wishers at home, Queen Beatrix decided that she would go out and celebrate with the people. Ever since then, she has visited one or two places on Koninginnedag.  It is an opportunity for her to meet local people and enjoy the entertainment provided, which usually includes traditional dancing and music making, arts and crafts and activities provided by local children.

koekhappen.jpgNo Koninginnedag is complete without the age-old game of Koekhappen (bite-the-cake), which is always on the ‘menu’, at the Queen’s special request. Slices of Dutch cake hang on strings, while blindfolded competitors try to eat them, holding their hands behind their back. It’s a recipe both for disaster and much merriment!

A National Party

Koninginnedag Amsterdam.jpgSince the introduction of a more relaxed celebration of Koninginnedag, the day has grown into a national party. Most towns and cities become open markets at which locals buy and sell wanted and unwanted goods, while local bands provide musical entertainment and atmosphere. And naturally the whole day is coated in orange – clothes, hair, wigs, funny hats, face paints, flags and drinks. And if you thought this was enough,- the festivities have been extended by starting at 7.00pm the night before, with what is now called Koninginnenacht (the night before Queen’s Day). Trust the Dutch to know how to party. 🙂

Koninginnedag.jpgActually – if you thought only the Dutch enjoy this orange madness – think again. Yes of course, Koninginnedag has become a firm favourite in the Dutch calendar, but it also attracts huge numbers of international visitors, who come over by the thousands to soak up the fun and atmosphere. Total visitor numbers in Amsterdam alone can be anything from 500,000 to 1 million – all depending on the weather of course. Not surprisingly, the biggest party is always in Amsterdam,  but beware. You won’t find either the Queen or her family there. This year they will be visiting Weert and Thorn, in the south of the Netherlands, where preparations for the celebrations are in their final stages. So if you’d like to get away from that Big Wedding Party in London, the place to be is the Netherlands…. Better get ready for some koekhappen. 🙂

Annemieke Waite is a freelance travel writer who specialises in writing for families and young people about EU travel destinations.  (And she likes a bit of personal history too….) 🙂

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One Comment

  1. Aleida Brinkman
    Posted April 29, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    A very correct story , it is a joy every year in the Netherlands to celebrate Oueens day!
    The best thing is that it is all so very relaxed with life music everywhere and people of all ages having so much fun!
    Try is one year !
    PS I think Marijke ad Pipi Longstocking did win something !!!!! And it was you Annemieke walking next to her !!!!

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