King’s Day. It’s as if Dutch people get an extra sparkle in their eye when they talk about it. And after experiencing my first one ever, I kind of get it. I say ‘experiencing’, but more on that later.
But wasn’t it always Queen’s Day? Why yes. I’m glad you asked. Up until three years ago, the Dutch would celebrate the birthday of their queen mother Beatrix on 30 April (though this is actually previous queen Juliana’s birthday). But now there’s King Willem-Alexander and they’ve renamed and moved Kings Day to his actual birthday on 27 April. He turned 50 this year and visited the people of Tilburg on this festive Thursday.
Generally, it’s a huge party. People wear anything and everything orange. My sister and I bought 3 Euro shirts at Primark (and now use it as PJ’s, because, orange.) I witnessed everything from inflatable crowns, glasses, onesies, feather boa’s, afro wigs, hats, laces and even moustaches. It’s all very fun.
King’s Day is also the day when the ban on free trade is lifted. People can literally sell their possessions (erm, junk) on the side of the road all day for next to nothing. A few of my friends have picked up some real deals. Even some shops use it as a means of having a clearance sale. In some neighbourhoods the children set up games and sell baked goods to join in the fun.
But the adults like to party. The night before there are huge jols in the streets and come actual Kings Day, many are nursing their hangovers with more beer throughout the day. We saw a group of (probably) students looking like they’d just robbed a Heineken truck of its cargo.
My experience? I stayed home on the Wednesday night, because a) I didn’t have a working phone and I already knew how frustrating it is to meet up with friends when you don’t, b) Amsterdam was a mission to get to, c) my sister was babysitting, and d) I was saving my energy for the real deal. Oh and e) there was a huge party at my favourite Club Duvet.
On Kings Day we did hit the streets: First my sister’s au pairing suburb of Aerdenhout and then onwards on a very full and festive train to Amsterdam. The weather was admittedly a bit rubbish and fluctuated between bitterly cold and snippets of heaven as the sun peeked out of the clouds. Basically, we walked around and took in the sights and sounds. People blaring music from and dancing on boats. I finally got my frites (chips with mayo). We drank wine and people-watched*. We met up successfully with my friend Saskia and we danced to some 90s jams in the street. I paid 1 Euro to wee in a restaurant. We walked some more until my feet gave up and I was over it. So we went home. Nothing too wild, but that was my King’s Day. And that’s okay.
For more fun reading about this day, check out these great blogs:
*I played paparazzi with my camera and here are some of my favourite shots: