What do we celebrate on King's Day?
Every year on the 27th of April, the Netherlands turns orange. It’s King’s Day! But what is actually being celebrated? And why do people dress up in orange while the Dutch flag is colored red-white-blue?
King’s Day marks the Dutch monarch’s birthday and is probably the biggest birthday party you will ever experience. Because it is an official national holiday in the Netherlands, Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten, it counts as a day off for most employees.
Throughout the country, King’s Day is celebrated with various festivities, including flea markets, festivals, and wearing orange clothing. Streets are adorned with orange and red-white-blue-colored decorations, and Dutch flags are hung out with a festive orange pennant. Traditionally, the monarch makes a ceremonial visit to one or more municipalities in the country on this day. If April 27 is on a Sunday, King’s Day will be celebrated on the Saturday before.
It used to be called Queen's Day
King’s Day began in 1885 as Prinsessedag (Princesses Day). From Queen Wilhelmina (1891) till Queen Beatrix (2013), the day was called Queen’s Day. At the time, the holiday took place annually on April 30, the birthday of Queen Juliana, the grandmother of our current King Willem-Alexander. Since Willem-Alexander became king (2014), the day is called King’s Day and is now celebrated on his birthday: April 27.
The inauguration of Willem-Alexander took place on 30 April 2013 in Amsterdam. Willem-Alexander ascended the throne immediately following the abdication of his mother Queen Beatrix earlier that day. 2013 was the last year the holiday was celebrated on April 30 as Queen's Day.
Fun fact: many tourists still come to Amsterdam in orange outfits on April 30 for Queen’s Day, while King’s Day is nowadays celebrated three days earlier. Woops!
How is it being celebrated?
In the past, during the time of Queen Juliana, a parade was held. The entire royal family stood on the steps of Soestdijk Palace. People could then walk by in a procession and present gifts. Queen Beatrix chose to go to the people herself, rather than have them come to her.
Since then, the Royal Family visits one or two towns in the Netherlands on King's Day. The city and surrounding towns can then present themselves in a festive and characteristic manner. This can be done, for example, with a parade, music performances, and with contributions from associations and organizations that are rooted in the city or region. The visit on King’s Day is always broadcast live on television by the NOS.
King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima play tennis during King's Day.
Why is everything orange?
If you are not covered head to toe in orange on King’s Day, you are doing something wrong. The reason why you should dress in orange is quite a story. At the origin of all the orange madness in the Netherlands lies Prince William the Silent (Willem van Oranje-Nassau in Dutch). During the Eighty Years’ War, the rebels led by Willem van Oranje carried the so-called prince’s flag. A horizontal triband in the colors: orange-white-blue. Blue-white derived from the uniform Willem of Oranje wore and orange from his name. During the years, the orange color disappeared from the flag and was replaced by red. The Dutch could not relinquish the color orange.
Especially for King’s Day, bakeries sell orange-colored pastries. Think of orange tompouces, orange cream puffs, orange petit fours, orange ‘Bossche Bollen’, and ‘Oranjekoeken’ (orange cookies). Would you like to make your own tompouces? Check our favorite recipe here.
What to do?
Normally, numerous activities take place throughout the country. This ranges from huge open-air dance events to big flea markets and random parties in the streets. Large festivals such as Kingsland Festival, Kingdance, 538 Koningsdag in Breda will not take place this year because of the measures taken by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.