Queen's Day (Koninginnedag) is no more! This article provides historical information about the former Dutch national holiday. From 1898 to 2013, April 30 marked Koninginnedag ("Queen's Day"), a national holiday to commemorate the birthday of the country's (former) Queen. It was by far the most widely celebrated holiday in the Netherlands - and still is, in its incarnation as King's Day. Amsterdam festivities in particular rival those of Mardi Gras in New Orleans or New Year's Eve in Times Square. As such, Amsterdam is packed to the gills on this holiday, welcoming up to two million party-going visitors.
History of Queen's Day
Just as King's Day used to be Queen's Day, Queen's Day itself used to be Princess's Day (Prinsessedag). The national holiday was invented in 1885 to celebrate the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina. The princess ascended to the throne and took the title Queen Wilhelmina in 1898, whereupon the holiday was re-christened Queen's Day.
Until 1949, the holiday fell on August 31, the birthday of Queen Wilhelmina, Juliana's mother. Queen's Day was moved to April 30 in 1949, when the new Queen Juliana ascended the throne.
When the current Queen Beatrix succeeded Juliana in 1980, she chose to keep Queen's Day on April 30, as Beatrix's own birthday is January 31, a date when Dutch weather isn't conducive to the many outdoor activities associated with the holiday. Fortunately, the new king, Willem-Alexander, celebrates his birthday on April 27, just a few days before his grandmother's.
Every year the reigning monarch visits one or two Dutch towns to greet their country's people and visitors, who receive them with fitting celebrations. What began as a commemoration of the Dutch Royal Family has evolved into a nationwide day of creative, carefree springtime revelry.
As for the vrijmarkt - the improvised flea-market stalls that crop up in every Dutch city on this day - that tradition dates from sometime in the 1950s. It became a national institution by the 1970s, when Dutch news media reported the rise of the vrijmarkt on Dam Square and in the Jordaan district.
Edited by Kristen de Joseph.