Sunday, May 2, 2010

Queen's Day

Koninginnedag, or Queen's Day, is a Dutch national holiday in celebration of, well, the queen. Only, it's not actually on the incumbent Queen Beatrix's birthday. The holiday started in the nineteenth century in honor of Princess Wilhelmina. Back then it was in August. Then, Juliana became queen and the holiday was moved to her birthday, April 30th. When Beatrix became queen, she knew no one would want to celebrate her January birthday because January is too damn cold. So, she kept the April 30th date in honor of her mother, Juliana.

Phew. Ok. Get it?

So, what happens on Queen's Day is that the entire country turns into a freemarket. Streets are closed down and everyone who wants to sell their junk, food or talents is allowed to. It's like a nationwide garage sale. In some cases, it's actually quite adorable. My friends and I walked through Oosterpark and Sarphatipark, which were filled with children singing, dancing, playing instruments, painting nails, selling lemonade and doing any other ingenious activity they could think of in hopes of earning a few euros. 

Here's a few clips of some of the sites my friends and I passed by throughout the day.

Of course, it's not all cute kids selling stuff. In a complete reflection of Gen X and Y behavior, the most recent generations have decided they don't want to spend the national holiday peddling their parent's cast-off belongings for a few guilders and instead would rather get pissed drunk and listen to DJs. So, for the past decade or so Queen's Day has come to be associated with oranjegekte (or, orange craze) and huge parties in the streets. Now, instead of just the freemarkets, Amsterdam celebrants dress in as much orange as they can and drink as much as they can while attending free, open air concerts or cruising the canals in party boats. 

Those same revelers also started Koninginnenacht, or Queen's Night, which is kind of like Mischief Night before Halloween. It's basically just an extra night of partying before the holiday begins.

All of us international students have known about Queen's Day since our arrival in January and had been warned to have something orange to wear. It was implied we'd be glared at or punched in the face if we didn't wear orange. While there were plenty of people in full orange costume and most had at least some sort of orange accessory, I have to admit that I wasn't too impressed. I've walked the streets of Austin, Texas on enough game days to be engulfed in some serious seas of orange. In terms of wearing orange, sorry Amsterdam, but UT does it better.

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