When it comes to celebrating Kingsday on 27th April one of the biggest traditions is to wear orange. But why is orange so strongly associated with Kingsday and with the Netherlands in general? After all, the national flag is red, white and blue. In its most basic form, the answer is simple; orange is the colour of the Dutch royal family, whose ancestors were part of the House of Orange.
House of Orange-Nassau
The House of Orange-Nassau was founded back in 1544 by William I of Orange, also known as William the Silent and also Father of the Fatherland. William was part of the European House of Nassau and organised a revolt of the Dutch people against Spanish rule that led to the Eighty Years War and ultimately to Dutch independence.
After independence, the House of Orange-Nassau played an important part as councillors and generals in the new Dutch republic as well as marrying into many of the important royal families from around Europe. The monarchy as it is found today began in 1815.
The illustrious history of the House of Orange-Nassau and its links around the world have come to be symbolised by the wearing of the colour orange at special events. It has also come to be associate with national pride and the country itself.
This sense of pride in the royal family was engendered with the creation of Kingsday, or Queen’s Day as it was originally. The holiday was the suggestion of a leading newspaper editor in the 1880s, at the time when the king, William III, was not well liked by the people. The idea was not to celebrate the birthday of the king but of that of his young daughter, Wilhelmina. It was viewed as an opportunity to bring the people together for a patriotic celebration and reconcile the differences that were present around the country.
Why wear orange? Orange craze
The wearing of orange for Kingsday has spread to other parts of Dutch life where it has become known as Orangegekte, or Orange craze. Association with major football events is one area where the wearing of orange has become normal with everything from t-shirts, scarfs, caps and scarfs being worn in shades of bright orange.
This proliferation of orange has been cultivated by the Orange Associations. These are local level organisations, sometimes just working in a neighbourhood that work to encourage that sense of togetherness behind the creation of Kingsday. They are supported financially by the government and organise many of the events for holidays, especially for Kingsday. They have also been responsible in the past for the festivities connected with the wedding of Juliana, the crown princess at the time, in 1937.
The first time the football version of the orange craze was seen was in the 1934 World Cup when supporters travelled to Italy in their thousands and appeared on the streets of Rome wearing the orange of the House of Orange-Nassau. However, it was the 1974 World Cup where the phenomenon really gained international recognition and is now an expected part of Dutch attendance at a major competition.