In the Netherlands, 27 April is a national holiday known as Koningsdag (King’s Day). On this day, Dutch people celebrate the birthday of their head of state, King Willem-Alexander.
The day was originally known as Prinsessedag (Princess’s Day) and then Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day) but changed to Koningsdag in 2014 after King Willem-Alexander ascended the throne (following the abdication of his mother Queen Beatrix on Koninginnedag in 2013).
On this day, it is customary for the reigning monarch to visit a municipality of the Netherlands. This year the King visited the municipality of Dordrecht in South Holland. Koningsdag is also the day that the monarch recognises the service of individuals to the Netherlands via the issuing of an honours list.
The vrijmarkt (free market) is another tradition associated with this day. Koningsdag is the one day of the year that the Dutch government allows the sale of items on the street without a permit and there is no requirement to pay value added tax. Across the country people sell items at marketplaces and on the streets outside their houses.
In modern times, Amsterdam is the most popular destination for people to celebrate Koningsdag. On this day each year, over one million people descend on Amsterdam, usually dressed in orange (the national colour), to attend free street parties and concerts or to spend the day on a boat in one of the canals. People often attend Koningsnacht (King’s night) street parties and concerts the night before Koningsdag as well.
I returned from my trip to France just in time to attend the Koningsnacht celebrations in The Hague and the Koningsdag celebrations in Amsterdam the next day. Safe to say I have never seen so many people dressed in orange and having a great time in one place before. It was a great initiation into Dutch culture for me.