King’s Day in the Netherlands is known as the biggest street party of the year. City streets and squares become a sea of orange as most citizens wear the national color in celebration. The name of the holiday changes depending on whether a king or queen is ruling and the day is a celebration of the ruler’s birthday. This day of “orange madness” is a chance for the normally well behaved Dutch to let their hair down. Many even dye their hair orange for the occasion.
Festivities include food and music, but what is unique to this festival is a citywide street sale. For a city built on trade, Amsterdam loves to haggle and bargain. The Vrijmarkt ‘free market’ gives everyone a chance to sell their second-hand things on the streets and parks of Amsterdam, creating one of the world’s largest flea markets. There is plenty of food and music spread throughout the festival for all partakers and under-privileged communities are provided with many food and music stands as well. Since King’s Day is a public holiday, nearly everyone joins in on the events. The day begins with a carnival atmosphere with fun activities for kids to enjoy, including face-painting and sports; the holiday ends with DJ’s spread throughout the cities. Festivities take place on the streets in the Netherlands and also spread to the canals on boats.
King’s Day celebrations date back to the 1880’s when the Dutch were faced with an unpopular monarchy. The liberals in the government created the holiday to promote unity among the nation. While King William III was disliked, his daughter Princess Wilhelmina was not. A suggestion was made to celebrate the princess’s birthday as an opportunity for patriotic celebration and national reconciliation. It was first celebrated in 1885. The celebrations became so popular that when the Princess was to be coronated queen, they postponed the coronation by a week so as to not interfere with the celebrations.