On Wednesday 26th April at around 10am I caught a train from Düsseldorf Train Station to Arnhem Train Station in Holland, on my cousin’s advice to arrive a day earlier because the festivities begin the evening before the day!
If you haven’t guessed it yet, you are most probably wondering which day and what festivities I’m referring to. Well, every year without fail Holland throws a massive party throughout its many cities in celebration of the ruling king or queen’s birthday; in this occasion King Willem-Alexander’s birthday on the 27th April. ‘Koningsdag’ or ‘King’s Day’ in English used to be Queen’s Day and was then celebrated annually on the 30th April in celebration of Queen Juliana’s birthday which later happened to coincide with her daughter, Queen Beatrix’s coronation day. This was common practice until 2014, a year after Queen Juliana’s abdication from the throne in favour of her grandson.
For many years I dreamt of attending this event but unfortunately fate would not have it and I always missed it. But finally 2017 happened to be the year that my dream came true and I finally got to attend King’s Day, and I must say the Dutch sure know how to throw a parteeeeeeeeyyyy!
On the eve of the King’s birthday we attended an open air concert which went on until 1am. It was held in the centre of town close to the Market hall on the main stage, which I later found out was one of approximately 20 stages scattered around town within a few metres of each other offering different genres of music aimed to please each taste and entertain.
On the morning of King’s Day (Thursday 27th April) I discovered that the extensive programme did not only offer music concerts but also street parades, parties, street markets, food stalls, family events in the various parks and much more. I was very curious about the market for I had come to learn that traditionally it was meant for children to sell their old toys and make pocket money and that to a small extent it still preserved this element even though it was currently flooded by hawkers selling King’s day themed products and second-hand goods.
My cousin Monei and I walked through the entire market in search of wine glasses, anything orange, a good bargain and items of mere interest. My cousin had me drinking wine out of water glasses you see, which is bad luck and a sin in the world of wine drinkers (my world to be exact), so I was determined to buy her a set. As we snaked through the many lanes of stalls we came across a food stall selling manyonyomane (oliebollen in Dutch and fat cakes in English) prepared exactly how they are made in my mom’s home village Tonota in Botswana. However they had a variation that had raisins in them and sprinkled with icing sugar, this is what I tried and they tasted like fat cakes with raisins in them, nice. After eating, buying wine glasses, bargaining hard for a scarf and pants and scoring two pairs of shades for two euros we went home to get dressed to the theme and hit the party streets.
For the love of a good party, culture and observing theme I had packed two sets of orange outfits, just in case! Why orange on King’s Day? Well, Orange is the symbolic colour of the royal family, of the ‘Huis van Oranje-Nassau’, which translates as ‘The House of Orange-Nassau.’ Other royal symbols are a crown and lion and these along with the Dutch flag were donned by countless merrymakers. After having something to eat at home, we set out. We first walked around town to sample what was on offer before settling for a stage where a Dj was performing musical magic, the dance floor was empty so we immediately ascended the throne and reigned over the dance floor. We pretty much stuck to this stage, only occasionally leaving to get a drink or for a quick survey of the mood in the other dance kingdoms, (jokes aside) The Dutch know how to throw a party! Every 100 metres offered a stage with different music, from rock and roll, to reggae, to folk music to anything you can imagine. We were spoilt for choice. The whole town was orange, the people were orange, even the mood seemed to be orange and I believe I literally experienced ‘dutch courage’ first hand for I took photos with strangers, inherited a stranger’s sunglasses, got taken for a spin on the dance floor and a little harmless something that has potential to turn my hubby into Mike Tyson (Dutch-Deutsch sibling rivalry), bwaahahahahaha, #gotsamayakegobona!
Confetti and music filled the air and disposable drinking cups besieged the ground. We the people painted the night ORANGE until dawn broke cloaked in orange and bowing in hail to a New Year and adieu to a lived year, in honour of the King.
Have you attended Queen or King’Day before? If YES, please share your experiences with the hashtags #iammmalenaonyana and #Queensorkingsday if NO, then share with us when you plan on going cos this is a must-experience-at-least-once kind of an event.