When it comes to important festivals in the Netherlands, Kingsday is near the top of the list. Kingsday is a national holiday that is now celebrated on the birthday of King Willem-Alexander, 27th April, though if this falls on a Sunday, the date of the holiday is moved forward to the 26th. As well as in the Netherlands, Kingsday is celebrated in Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten. But, when is Kingsday in the Netherlands, who started it and what do they do?
History of Kingsday
The festival now known as Kingsday or Koningsdag originated as Princess’s Day and was celebrated on the 31st August. The holiday came about in the 1880s when the government was seeking to unite the country but the king at the time, King William III, was unpopular. However, his four-year-old daughter Princess Wilhelmina was adored. While a holiday for the king’s birthday had been held randomly, a newspaper editor named JWR Gerlach suggested using the Princess’s birthday as a national holiday. But is this when Kingsday started in the Netherlands?
The idea was accepted and the little princess was taken through the crowded streets in a parade through Utrecht, with other cities quickly joining in. More processions were held in the years following and when Wilhelmina inherited the throne from her father in 1890, the holiday was renamed Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day.
In fact, the holiday became so important to the country that when the Queen came of age in 1898, her coronation was postponed for a week to allow the normal Queen’s Day celebrations to take place. The holiday also fell on the last day of the summer holidays for schools, making it very popular with children.
When is Kingsday in the Netherlands? An extra school day off!
When Princess Juliana, daughter and heir to Queen Wilhelmina, took the throne in 1949, the date of the celebration was moved to 30th April. This proved even more popular with children as it meant they got an extra day off school! When Juliana’s daughter Beatrix followed her mother to the throne in 1980, she decided to keep the date the same as tribute to her mother.
In 2013, Willem-Alexander followed his mother Beatrix to the throne and became the first king of the country for 123 years. From 2014 onwards, the date of the festival was changed to the 27th April to celebrate his birthday and the name was changed from Queen’s Day to Kingsday.
When is Kingsday in the Netherlands? And what happens on Kingsday?
The events of Kingsday are organised by the Orange Committees – these are local associations who organise events and get sponsorship for them. Among these events are nationwide flea markets where people sell their goods and the holiday is the one day of the year that the government lets people sell on the streets without having a permit.
As well as the flea markets, there are countrywide celebrations and concerts held in public spaces, with Amsterdam being a focus for much of the festivities. An outdoor concert is held that can see as many as 800,000 people gather.
Kingsday is also the day that the King can give honours to citizens for their service to the country. For example, in 2011, Queen Beatrix issued an honours list that named over 3,000 people and the work that they had done, most of whom were made members of the Order of Orange-Nassau.
In short: When is Kingsday in the Netherlands?
Kingsday is a national holiday that is now celebrated on the birthday of King Willem-Alexander, 27th April, though if this falls on a Sunday, the date of the holiday is moved forward to the 26th. As well as in the Netherlands, Kingsday is celebrated in Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten.