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King’s Day – History, Significance, and How to Celebrate a Dutch Holiday in the Netherlands



King's Day 2023 Google Doodle

Google animated Doodle celebrates King’s Day, a Dutch holiday that honors the rich cultural heritage of the Netherlands, on April 23, 2023. The night before, as people gather in the streets to celebrate Koningsnacht (King’s Night), cafes remain open all night.

In the Netherlands, King’s Day is one of the biggest national celebrations. Previously known as Queen’s Day and celebrated on April 30, King’s Day is currently celebrated on April 27, the birthday of Willem-Alexander, who climbed the throne in 2013. Since 1885, Queens/Kings’ Day has been celebrated in honor of the Dutch royal family of Orange-Nassau. On this day, everyone in the Netherlands wears orange. Occupants frequently riot for a large, nationwide street-sale, and afterward, head out for a day of celebrating in cities around the country.

While there are other monarchies in Europe, few put on such wonderful celebrations as the Dutch do, and they do so with one clear goal: to share the monarch’s joy and emphasize how important he or she is to the Netherlands.

King’s Day may resemble a massive Dutch party. Yet, the holiday is eventually about honoring joy and community. Throughout the day, people get together with friends and family by attending street parties, listening to live music, and browsing the enormous flea markets known as vrijmarkt. Even though celebrations happen the nation over, the most popular ones happen in Amsterdam — where orange boats float through the city’s popular streams, making historical canals burst into color.

King’s Day History

The Dutch monarchy was the inspiration for King’s Day. On August 31, 1885, King’s Day, then known as Queen’s Day, was first observed to commemorate Queen Wilhelmina’s birth. On the day after the birthday of the current monarch, Queen’s Day has become a tradition. In honor of Queen Juliana’s birthday, the date of Queen’s Day was changed to April 30 in 1949. As Willem-Alexander’s birthday falls on that day, the celebration was changed to April 27 when he became king in 2013.

The Netherlands has a long history in the world scene. Dutch merchants, agriculturalists, sailors, philosophers, and virtuoso artists like Rembrandt and the school of Dutch Masters among many, have been known during that time for their one-of-a-kind contributions to different ranges of influence and culture.

Today, on King’s Day, the country rejoices in its king and takes pride in its place among the nations. In 2013, when Queen Beatrix abdicated in favor of her son, Willem-Alexander, “Queen’s Day” was changed to “King’s Day,” when the King’s birthday is celebrated on April 27 of each year.

King’s Day Significance

In the Netherlands, King’s Day has a significant cultural and historical significance. The Dutch celebrate this day to celebrate their monarchy, show their support for the royal family, and guide their pride in their country. Additionally, it is a day when people of all ages can participate in various celebrations, including flea markets, concerts, and other events, fostering a sense of belonging and community. King’s Day is a beloved custom that brings joy and celebration to the Dutch people and is a symbol of their national identity.

How to celebrate King’s Day in the Netherlands

King’s Day events

In the Netherlands, King’s Day is celebrated with a lot of excitement and fun. There are several events that mark the day, including:

Orange Craze: Orange is the primary color used for King’s Day celebrations and is associated with the Dutch royal family. Orange flags and banners line the streets and buildings, and people wear orange makeup, accessories, and clothing.

Vrijmarkt (flea markets): The nationwide flea markets, where people can sell secondhand goods, crafts, and other goods on the streets, are one of the main highlights of King’s Day. It is when many people, including children, partake in buying and selling items, and the roads are loaded up with a festive atmosphere.

Performances, concerts, and music: In many Dutch cities and towns, King’s Day is also celebrated with concerts, live music performances, and cultural events. In parks, public squares, and other locations, musicians and performers set up stages to entertain the crowds.

Boat Parades: Boat parades, also known as “Oranjevaart” or “Oranje Parade,” are held in cities like Amsterdam and Utrecht. During these events, orange and decorated boats sail through the canals with revelry, music, and dancing on board. During King’s Day celebrations, it is a popular attraction.

Cultural Events And Festivities: A Celebration of Life and The House of Orange

King’s Day, or “Koningsdag,” is an ongoing festival throughout the entire country, major cities, or modest communities. Because they are members of the House of Orange, the Royal Family visits as many of their adored subjects as they can. But this day is also about how much a people love their monarch.

The constituent nations of the Kingdom of the Netherlands don the “Orange” and use it to the fullest, whether it’s in their capital, Amsterdam, or throughout the region in Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten.

Undoubtedly, people will always remember the House of Orange fondly, whether they wear orange clothing, drink the national drink known as “Oranjebitter,” or even dye their hair orange. Originating from a military victory in 1620 by then Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, people today participate in celebrations the country over.


Street Parties

As the world’s most festive street party, and the number one destination point in the Netherlands during King’s Day, more than a million people visit with 750,000 local people every year. Due to the relocation of DJ- and artist-driven events to the city’s outskirts, this day is to be considered important.

In point of fact, around midnight on the night before King’s Day, everything gets going in Amsterdam. The most boisterous parties are held in the Jordaan, Wallen, and Nieuwmarkt squares, which are full of cafes, bakeries, and beverages, particularly Oranjebitter.

The Vondelpark

Regardless of what a visitor sees on King’s Day, a trip to the Vondelpark should be one of their top priorities because you can hear children laughing in the early morning hours. Having said that, this is also a special day for the children of Amsterdam, who come together in large numbers to sell old games and toys to visitors and perform musical numbers.

Other Events and Attractions in Haarlem, Rotterdam, The Hague, and Utrecht

Other major and minor cities participate in King’s Day celebrations. If you can’t make it to Amsterdam, these other major destinations, like Haarlem, Rotterdam, and other famous cities, won’t let you down.

There are numerous flea markets held throughout the city of Utrecht, and colorful boats navigate the city’s winding canals. Magnificent musical performances fill the halls of the historic Netherlands government building in The Hague.

Every city and township has its own spectacular fair, complete with mini pancakes known as “poffertjes” and “suikerspinnen,” also known as candy floss or sugar spiders, to complete King’s Day.

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