It’s that time of the year again. One of the holidays Holland is best known for. We celebrate our dying monarchy by congratulating our king by drinking ’till we drop. To warm up to the Dutch partying ways hereby I share with you six things you should know before King’s Day.

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BUT FIRST, A NOTE: Yeah, it’s not a normal year. King’s Day will live on, but coronavirus has changed everything. In fact, while King’s Day is effectively cancelled, you can bet that people will still be drinking, wearing orange, but (hopefully) sticking to the self-isolation measures in place. But, keep reading this article for what you need to know about King’s Day!

Where to celebrate King’s Day in the Netherlands in 2020?

So you have something orange, you’ve been holding off on alcohol so that you can prepare for the holiday, and you’re ready to ring in this King’s Day. But wait – where do you go? We know there will be something happening everywhere in the country, but do you want to know what are the events that should be on your radar? We have done you one better and put together events for all the big cities in the Netherlands!

UPDATE: Well, we did — we were pretty ready for this, but unfortunately coronavirus has put a spanner in the works. But, check out what’s changed for King’s Day 2020 instead — and read on here for all you need to know about King’s Day in general.

1King’s Day 2020: What’s in a name

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Always the bridesmaid (prince) never the bride (King). Image: Dutch National Archives/ Wikimedia Commons

King’s Day is the time of year we celebrate the king’s birthday. It’s a bit of an adjustment for everyone since it used to be called Queen’s Day for decades up until five years ago when we celebrated King Willem Alexanders crowning.

Before that we used to celebrate the birthday of our queen mother Beatrix. But now retired we switched things up and now call it King’s Day. Why? Because in laws are always ignored and should be happy just to be there. Right, post-mortem Prince Claus?

Our Willem Alexander is the proper heir to the throne because genes.  So Maxima’s queen title is just there for the fun of it. She is as much a queen as Rupaul is one.

Nonetheless, King’s day is upon us. But for decades it hasn’t actually been the queen’s birthday. After queen Juliana’s rule, ending in 1980, whose birthday was on the 30th of April, Queen Beatrix decided to keep the date. Her birthday is actually on the 31st of January. But knowing the country we live in and not wanting to spread pneumonia-like wildfire she decided to keep the date.

Before Juliana’s rule Queen’s day was held on Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday on the 31st of August and the day actually originated in her younger years when she was still a Princess: being titled Princess’ Day.  And looking at a photo of her from back in the day it becomes clear why: who doesn’t want to throw that sexy little minx a party.

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It’s Wilhelmina herself! Image: Atelier Jacob Merkelbach/Wikimedia Commons

2King’s Day in the Netherlands: Meet the royals

Yes, since Beatrix started the tradition, the royals go out on the town and celebrate with ‘the people’. So you too can catch a glimpse of the king and queen. Every year the royals go to a certain region in the country to show how connected they are to their people by playing silly Dutch games, enjoying old Dutch traditions involving clogs and swamp monster re-enactments (oh, how I’d wish that were true). They small talk and kiss their way down to a serious case of the herp.

Where were the royals visiting this year?

So want to catch a glimpse of the royals this year? The royal family was meant to be visiting Maastricht in 2020. They were going to mix things up compared to regular stuff of old Queen’s days and enjoy themselves a celebration new style: with the royals enjoying a royal walk through the city. And yes there were meant to be flea-markets (more on that later), kids turning tricks and our nations ‘best musicians’ performing in front of the royals.

3Flea Market Wars

King’s Day is also known for the flea market infestation that becomes most cities. Ban for free trade is lifted. Days, and sometimes weeks, in advance people mark their territory with crayons and tags. Curbs, sidewalks, bridges. Every patch and centimetre becomes a potential reason for dispute and conflict. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people mark their spot by urinating.

But want to get rid of some of your old junk? Put it on display and you might sell some of it (obviously depending on how crappy your stuff is). Half of Holland has fond childhood memories (read: trauma) of saving up for that special toy by selling their old stuff during Queen’s Day.

I wonder though if online marketplaces like Marktplaats are emptying out this tradition. Online you are bound to get a better price and more than just a handful of uninterested people passing by. So remember: if you do this, you’ll be doing it more for tradition than profit.

This is also the day you can actually make some spare change with reselling booze, drinks, food, refreshments or just providing plain silly entertainment. It doesn’t really matter how silly. You will make money.  Drunks are easy targets.

And talking about alcohol…

4Drug of choice: Beer

Holland loves their booze and after decades of smart marketing by Heineken, our Dutch commercial pride, we are all hooked on the foamy sweet nectar of the gods during King’s Day.

And oh, how we love it.

No beer glass is left full, no mind is left clear. If there is ever a day to black out, it is this one. A photo exposition on alcohol abuse practically shoots itself during King’s Day.

And it’s not just King’s Day, the King’s Night before is half the fun. It’s usually as busy as King’s Day minus the kids and families. That means even less inhibition to spill your beer, pee your pants and slur your words.

But for a pleasant experience (aside from eating light), for the love of God, wear Orange!

5Orange Everything

Yes, the colour of Dutch pride is recycled endlessly through World cups, Olympics and Queen’s days. Wear orange and you are Dutch. Dutch, immigrant, tourist, foreigner, expat, mammal. It doesn’t matter. It’s harmony by colour. Especially in combination with belting out some basic phrases at complete strangers like ‘I love Holland’, ‘oh,  Nederland’, ‘ Leve de Koning’, or maybe just even a loud roar, will bring people to hugs, high fives, laughter and more.

On King’s Day in 2020 a country with an ongoing identity crisis gets to retreat in bliss and harmony. Orange is us. Orange is belonging. Orange is love.

And so plenty brands use this to their advantage to show their fictive (multinational) patriotic love: shaving razors, beats headphones, grills, barbies, lube and more. All are tapping into our Dutch sense of belonging to then exploit it to the full. And so the cycle continues.

6Crowd forecast: chillax

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People having a blast on the canal in Amsterdam during Kingsday. Image: Annabiasoli/Pixabay

In normal years, you really need to watch out for the big cities. They can clog up if it’s a sunny day and I’m talking cardiac arrest kind of clogging, especially Amsterdam. Our streets and canals are not made for crowds, that’s for sure. And as fun as the music, singing and performances can be, the canned sardine dance gets old after a while (although of course a true classic).

7Bonus survival tip for King’s Day 2020: Herstelbiertje

Unfortunately, you still have to go to work on the next day. But not to worry, just have a herstelbiertje (‘recovery beer’)! According to the Dutch, the best way to get over your hangover in the morning is by drinking even more alcohol. And who in their right mind would argue with that? So just ignore the desperate cries of your liver, and go for that good old Dutch beer! The real breakfast of party champions.

Well, that completes the King’s Day 2020 survival kit for today. Now have a blast and let’s nostalgically commemorate a time when the monarchy still mattered within our tiny imaged community!!!

What do you like best about Kingsday? Let us know in the comments.

Feature Image: Annabiasoli/Pixabay

30 COMMENTS

  1. Poorly written piece of article with a video of 2008 .. ?

    The writer’s attempts of being witty feel quite shallow.

  2. It’s 2016 and you still decide to go with “And looking at a photo of her from back in the day it becomes clear why: who doesn’t want to throw that sexy little minx a party” and “A man in a dress??? No silly, it’s Wilhelmina!”

    Maybe time to do some editing there

  3. […] King’s Day market is perhaps one of the coolest markets you will ever witness in your life. The whole Netherlands practically turns into an open marketplace on this day. The Dutch calls it the “Vrijmarkt” (free market). In some places, adults could be seen to mark the prime spots with chalk while kids could be seen out camping with their stuff since the early morning of King’s Day in order to get their favorite spots. […]

  4. […] King’s Day market is perhaps one of the coolest markets you will ever witness in your life. The whole Netherlands practically turns into an open marketplace on this day. The Dutch calls it the “Vrijmarkt” (free market). In some places, adults could be seen to mark the prime spots with chalk while kids could be seen out camping with their stuff since the early morning of King’s Day in order to get their favorite spots. […]

  5. Last year I went to Amsterdam during Kingsday with a company called Stoke Travel. It was amazing. We did a pubcrawl, had lots of fun at the hostel and in the streets. The crew was suuuper nice aswell! They partied with us and where always there to help you.

  6. I am new in Europe, currently living in Barcelona. I am an avid backpacker and I would love to visit Amsterdam during the King’s Day. How do I go about it? Are there any camping trips or something? I am lost! WTF

  7. […] King’s Day is a national holiday in Holland. It falls on April 27 (or April 26 if the 27th is a Sunday). It was originally created to help popularise a deeply unpopular monarchy and to promote national unity. The observance was also originally held only in Utrecht, but it quickly spread nationwide. While it is a “holiday”, it is not a day of rest. It is marked by traditional celebrations. DJs play music to public crowds in large squares, brightly decorated boats fill the canals, and cities turn into a mixture of street fair-visiting tourists and bargain hunters. […]

  8. This article is so negative1 When you’re hating your countries traditions that much…. don’t write an ariticle at all man..King’s day is one of the most entertaining and interesting days in The Netherlands. You’re just making fun of it and in my opinion you don’t deserve to call it ‘our’ national celebration. shame on you pall. In the and there are over 15 million people celebrating Kingsday and more to come because people all over the world are joining us in our traditions!

  9. A poor attempt at sarcasm. It’s just grumpy.

    Also you should really google “turning tricks” before you mention Dutch kids doing this. It gives a bad impression.

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