4 things about Labour Day in the Netherlands

It’s Labour Day in the Netherlands!

Yes people! All gather! It’s Labour Day, the universal day on which we celebrate Labour (I guess). You might have missed the meaning of it if you have spent Labour Day in the Netherlands.

Of course, coronavirus changes a couple of things here – namely that even if the Netherlands had a strong tradition of Labour Day celebrations (spoiler alert: it doesn’t), gathering together to protest so would be impossible because of social distancing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t soak up the socialism of this article in preparation for next year.

 labour day in the netherlands

Anyways, all across the world you can spot the following scenes on the 1st of May (except this year of course, because of coronavirus):

 labour day in the netherlands
Source: Lilian Wagdy/wikimedia commons


 labour day in the netherlands
Source: Bogomolov.PL/wikimedia commons

And this is the Netherlands on Labour Day on the 1st of May, where we have a few confused tourists flocking to the country:

Apart from this, more or less nothing happens here on the 1st of May. Chances are that you noticed nothing, spent your whole day grinding away at the office or you were simply unemployed and even then not unemployed enough to vigorously protest that on Labour day. So what the hell Holland?! I thought we were the shining beacon of socialism in Europe, that’s at least what FOX taught me. So, why isn’t there any protests or whatever on Labour Day in the Netherlands?!

Labor day in the Netherlands
A protest on May 1 2015 (Labor Day!) in the Netherlands (Source: Nederland, Amsterdam, 01-05-2015. Foto: Rob Huibers. FNV Bondgenoten, from FlickR, CC)

Labour day in the Netherlands: Why do we not celebrate it?

Why is Labour Day celebrated internationally?

Labour day (or International Workers Day) originated from the ultra communist and socialist nation of the United States of America. Bet you didn’t see that one coming ey? It’s like Hitler wearing a yamaka.

I'm sorry
I’m sorry

So what happened USA? May 1 was chosen as the date for International Workers’ Day by the Socialists and Communists of the Second International to commemorate the Haymarket affair in Chicago that occurred on May 4, 1886. After some rioting because, unions in the US, President Cleveland decided to switch the date of this day to September the 1st. Just like the Netherlanders, Americans also don’t get the day off anymore. But they do get a compensation day. Labor day is celebrated (by taking the day off and protesting in most of the times) by 80 countries.

Why is Labour Day in the Netherlands not a thing?

Poldermodel. Yes, click that hyperlink if you are relatively new to the Netherlands, it’s an essential word for understanding our political culture and history. In history countries such as Russia, Germany and France communist and socialist movements fought vicious street battles with other political groups. The sharp edges of socialist uprising weren’t that sharp due to the Poldermodel. Concensus was needed, society was pilarized (click that one too) and socialism was just another party.

Also, the Dutch celebrate predominantly Christian holidays. And we are a capitalist enough nation in the sense that the employers organizations will never ever give us an extra day off.

Is everything business as usual on Labour Day in the Netherlands?

Not quite: some public workers are free, the stock-exchange is closed and there are some marginal socialist meetings. Also, the 1st of May is a day somewhat in between the very few non-christian Dutch holidays. Such as King’s day (which used to be on the 30th of April until a few years back), remembrance day (4th of May, more on that later on DutchReview) and Liberation day (the 5th). So lot’s of people got their caravans out and made a dash for a holiday into France or Germany.

 labour day in the netherlands
International socialism: the Dutch way

So, what do you think? What happens in your country on Labour Day in your country? Should there be more happening on Labour Day in the Netherlands? Let us know in the comments, below

(Source cover pic: Nederland, Amsterdam, 01-05-2015. Foto: Rob Huibers. FNV Bondgenoten, from FlickR, CC)

Abuzer Van Leeuwen
Abuzer Van Leeuwenhttp://www.abuzervanleeuwen.nl
Founded DutchReview. Rotterdammer living in Leiden. Politics, innovation and epic food-reviews are his thing. Interested in doing anything with DutchReview? Contact him at abuzer[at]dutchreview.com


  1. What a bs, it doesn’t mean anything in the Netherlands because of the poldermodel and capitalism? Why isn’t it something: because we already had our shit (partly) sorted and we’re capable enough not to protest against nothing..we would rather celebrate the rights of workers than have random protests just to get a day off

    • AS IF worker’s rights in the Netherlands weren’t precarious! With all the temporary contracts and companies that fire people just not to give them indefinite contracts. Companies not being obliged to pay for lunch or transportation… Yeah, right, you totally got your shit sorted.

  2. Actually, Labor Day in the USA is always celebrated the first Monday in September, and it is a paid national holiday.


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