Liberation Day in the Netherlands: what you need to know about May 5

Liberation Day in the Netherlands (Bevrijdigingsdag) is celebrated on May 5. It commemorates the day the Dutch were liberated by the Allies from Nazi occupation.

The occupation of the Netherlands by Nazi Germany began on May 10, 1940. Four days later, the city of Rotterdam was bombed, leading to the surrender of the Dutch command. It wasn’t until five years later, in 1945, that the country was free again, mostly liberated by Canadian forces. Right after the war, the Dutch decided that May 5 would be celebrated as Liberation Day.

Liberation Day during a pandemic

Liberation Day is going to look a little bit different this year, because, of course, the Netherlands is still following social distancing rules. This means that the usual parades and festivals cannot take place. So what will be happening this year?

In all provinces where a freedom festival was due to be held, a freedom bonfire was lit instead last night at midnight. People are encouraged to light a candle at home and pass it on to friends and relatives virtually. There will be some events that you can watch via a live stream.

Despite this unconventional year, if you’re not familiar with how the Netherlands usually celebrates Liberation Day this article is definitely worth a read — so you’re ready to go next year.

Liberation Day in the Netherlands is celebrated the day after the National Remembrance Day, which is held on May 4 every year. This way, the Netherlands has two days of both remembering and celebration. While originally celebrated to commemorate the end of WWII, in the last couple of years, Bevrijdigingsdag has also really been about celebrating freedom in general.

Many people, and younger generations, in particular, don’t know what it’s like not to live in a free society. Liberation Day is therefore the day to remember not to take freedom for granted and celebrate how wonderful it is to live in a free society. During Liberation Day, the Netherlands holds parades, concerts and also has military memorabilia.

Liberation Day in the Netherlands is only a public holiday every 5 years (the next being in 2025). In that year, many businesses will close and public transport will either not run, or stick to a different timetable. However, there’s always some debate whether May 5 should be a public holiday each and every year.

Festivals and Events on Liberation Day in the Netherlands

As Liberation Day in the Netherlands is a day that marks freedom in the Netherlands, it is widely celebrated. This is especially true when it is a public holiday, as most people get a day off work to enjoy the celebrations to the fullest.

Liberation Day events are usually opened by the Prime Minister, who starts the festivities from a different province every year. A team of around 5000 runners carries a flame to 200 municipalities all throughout the Netherlands, which marks the official beginning of all events, with free festivals happening in over 14 cities in the country.

While this year there won’t be any large gatherings, here are some online events that you can enjoy.

How will you be celebrating Liberation Day in the Netherlands this year? Let us know in the comments!

Feature Image: Malindine E.G./Wikimedia Commons/Public domain
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in May 2018, and was fully updated in May 2021 for your reading pleasure.

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Emma Brown
A familiar face at DutchRevew. Emma arrived in Holland in 2016 for a few weeks, fell in love with the place and never left. Here she rekindled her love of writing and travelling. Now you'll find her eating stroopwafels in the DutchReview office since 2017.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. Hi I am Jackie Bray from Canada. I am president of the Canadian Cowgirls in Chatham. We are looking tme o come to Holland in 2020 and hopefully participate in the celebrations. We are at the begining of our planning. We are a drill team and own our own horses. We are still trying to see if it makes sense coming over with our horses or renting horses in Holland to attend parades. Can you give me any information to help with our preparing. The Captain and myself are looking to fly to Holland this May to try and put this together. Any help is appreciated. Thanks

  2. We are planning to travel to and participate in Remembrance on May 4th and celebrate Liberation on May 5th in the Netherlands. Which website should I connect with to find out what is happening and where in the Netherlands during those two days?

  3. My Father is a97 year old canadian army veteran / princess Louise fusiliers regiment.
    He and my mother plus several members of our family attended the 50 year celebration as guests of the Netherlands. They have recounted the stories /memories about generosity and gratitude of the Dutch people during their stay . That celebration was very healing for my father who was wounded during the war.
    Unfortunately he won’t be attending this 75bth celebration. I am planning to sttend so that I may share my exoetiences and observations of tnis celebration in May 2020.directly. I would appreciate any information /advice you could provide that would ensure I’m in the best place at the right time .

  4. Hello Verlie Wile. My Uncle also served with the Canadian Army. He was Communications. We are also attending the 75th celebration and need more details on where to be and how to get around as I’ve been reading that public transportation is limited that day.

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