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Dutch populace enthusiastically resumed national birthday celebration

Queen's Day always biggest in Amsterdam

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

AMSTERDAM Koninginnedag or Queensday, the official birthday celebration of Queen Beatrix, is the national holiday when numerous people showcase themselves in varying degrees with orange-coloured shirts, ties, hats, umbrellas, and even facepaint.

Sports paraphernalia previously used to celebrate successful endeavours of Dutch teams in official international championships, often dubbed 'Oranje' for short, help people create a massive festive display in which the orange colour is most prominent.

Everyone seems to join in the nationwide party, with numerous local festivities, which make it a gigantic free-for-all. Among the manifestations, flea markets, which spring up everywhere in the country, seem the most popular venue with the capital city of Amsterdam alone attracting crowds into the hundreds of thousands.

It seems no longer an issue to republican-minded Dutch people to be dressed in orange, and to cheer on enthusiastic orange-coloured displays, probably because the love for a festive occasion is greater than their doubts about the value of royalty.

As for Queen Beatrix and her family, they resumed their tradition by visiting two places in a specific province this year, having put the tragedy of April 30 last year behind them with a fitting commemmorative ceremony in Apeldoorn a day earlier. The royal family spent the day in Wemeldinge and Middelburg, Zeeland, where 65 years earlier grandmother Queen Wilhelmina crossed the border into the Netherlands in the village of Eede as her official return from exile.

When Queeb Beatrix ascended to the throne in 1980, she opted for the continuation of the national Queens' Day celebration on April 30, her mother's birthday. Queen Beatrix's actual birthday is January 31 when she turned 72. A cold, damp winter day is not deemed the best recipe for a huge outdoor celebration as is the case on April 30. This year, the day started with numerous umbrellas in sight but later changed to sunshine bright.

125 Years Koninginnedag

Queen's Day, as it is known today, has its origin in an initiative originally intended by a citizens group called the Liberal Union as a day of national unity. It started with the celebration of the birthday of Princess Wilhelmina on August 31, 1885, 125 years ago. Until 1890, the celebration was called Prinsessedag or Princess' Day, and Koninginnedag or Queen's Day after she became queen. The first Queen's Day was held on August 31, 1891, coincidentally also the last day of the summer holiday for school children. Unlike her successors, Queen Wilhelmina rarely attended festivities on Queen's Day.

When her only daughter Princess Juliana ascended to the throne in September 1948, Queen's Day was celebrated from 1949 on April 30, her birthday. Queen Juliana also became more involved with the Queen's Day festivities, receiving a floral tribute at Soestdijk Palace, where she lived. She and her family would view from a dais the long line of citizen groups walking past, congratulating her and presenting her gifts and flowers. From the 1950s, on the annual parade became a popular event on national television, giving the public a sense of involvement. Local Oranjeverenigingen (Orange societies) organized local festivities as well but have in recent decades been overtaken by other groups organizing massive flea markets, concerts and other festivities on Queen's Day.

When Queen Beatrix succeeded her mother Queen Juliana on April 30, 1980, she decided to keep the holiday's date unchanged as a tribute to her mother. In a move away from the Soestdijk parade, Beatrix decided to take the event into the country, meeting the people where they live instead of receiving them at her residence. Since 1981, when she visited Breda (North Brabant) and Veere (Zeeland) she has taken her royal family at least once to every province and to over fifty towns and cities.

In the 125-year Queen's Day history, the event was not held during the German occupation (1940-1945) and was cancelled in 2001 out of concern for possibly helping spread the Foot-and-Mouth cattle disease.