Long live the Queen!

Marloes Tervoort, dinsdag 23 april 2013

A red, white and blue flag on my cheek. A little orange dress. Streets filled with people. Get a beer on any corner. Buy second-hand toys and objects from people’s cellars and attics at the bustling vrijmarkt (informal flea market). Smell the meat roasting on the barbecue and listen to the loud music that fills the streets. Oh, how I loooooove Koninginnedag!

I sometimes try to imagine what it must be like for an unsuspecting tourist to be dropped into this orange version of a Rio carnival. What are all these people doing here? Why are all these down-to-earth Dutch people suddenly acting like fools? And why is everyone dressed in orange?

Well, people, there’s no reason to panic. The orange madness reigns just one day each year (unless the European or World Championship soccer is on, of course). We celebrate our Queen’s birthday on 30 April because we actually are a little nationalistic after all. I should mention that it is not even Beatrix’s actual birthday, which is on 31 January. Still, when she succeeded her mother, Queen Juliana, in 1980 she announced that the last day in April would remain a national holiday, because it was her mother’s birthday. An excellent decision since you are just a tad more comfortable standing outside with a beer in April than in January!

Queen’s Day is celebrated throughout the nation, but many people travel to Amsterdam for the ultimate party experience. While I used to look for my Queen’s Day enjoyment in the Jordaan district in the past (great market, fun cafes and a happy crowd), I have stayed in my own neighbourhood for the last couple of years. The Watergraafsmeer district still celebrates the day the old-fashioned way, which is maintained in many Dutch villages as well. What that means? Games, a more pleasant (less crowded) vrijmarkt, merry-go-rounds, kids made up to look like animals and fairytale creatures, and puppet shows for the youngest audience.

All this after the big party on the night before Queen’s Day, Koninginnenacht or Queen’s Night, with a huge neighbourhood dinner in the street. Which I attend in that same little orange dress and with a makeup flag on my cheek. With hot roasted meat from the barbecue and a beer from the street tap. To Beatrix! Long live the Queen!