King’s Day in Amsterdam?
By Tatjana Edle von Peter & Stefana Vizman | May 26, 2021
Cover Illustration: Confetti falling down on Koningsdag 2019, the last time the holiday was officially held as a big event. Kira Guehring / The Amsterdammer
Metro Reporters Tatjana and Stefana reflect on how this year’s King’s Day, yet another day meant to be celebrated in social distancing, turned into a full blown partying spectacle.
I don’t know about you, but for us, this King’s Day was a big shock. As opposed to last year when nobody dared to break the newly-imposed COVID restrictions, this year, April 27 did not look much different than it did in pre-COVID times. Before discussing this further, let us first teach you a bit of Dutch culture by explaining what King’s Day is all about.
April 27 is the day the Netherlands celebrates the birthday of King Willem Alexander, who was born in 1967. Prior to his reign, Queen Wilhelmina ruled the Netherlands and her birthday, August 31 was celebrated as Queen’s Day. From 1949, after her daughter Queen Juliana ascended the throne, the holiday was celebrated on Juliana’s birthday, April 30. Juliana’s successor Queen Beatrix decided to keep Queen’s Day on April 30, because her own birthday is in winter – which is not so ideal for celebrating in the streets. Nowadays, King Willem Alexander’s role is to simply go visit different cities across the Netherlands on this day with his family.
King’s Day, locally known as Koningsdag, is one of the biggest holidays in the Netherlands, and Amsterdam is particularly known for having amazing celebrations year after year. If you happen to be in the Netherlands on April 27, here are some things you can usually expect to see: canals filled with colorful boats and dancing people inside them, markets, concerts and streets completely occupied by people drinking and listening to loud music. The official color of the Netherlands is orange, as the color refers to the Dutch Royal Family, the House of Orange-Nassau, founded by Willem van Oranje. That is why everyone is symbolically dressed in orange.
However, this year, just like the previous year, was supposed to be different. Last year’s newly imposed COVID measures did not allow King’s Day to go ahead like normal. King’s Day 2020 was a silent one, with people celebrating inside their homes with the people they lived with.
The holiday in 2021 was also supposed to follow suit. In their attempt to prevent King’s Day celebrations from taking place, the Dutch government announced the relaxation of the COVID restrictions one day later, on April 28. Nevertheless, despite living under the strictest measures to date, the people of Amsterdam persisted with their plans to celebrate. In spite of the fact that COVID cases have never been higher, April 27 in Amsterdam was a spectacle. Amsterdam’s city center was packed with people going about their celebrations without a care in the world. It was almost like the “only 2 people together outside” rule ceased to exist. For a day, people seemed to forget all about COVID and just had a good time. If you were to walk the streets on this day, you would probably feel, just as we did, that COVID was simply not a thing.
Despite everything that’s been going on with the global pandemic, it seems as if one year of restrictions was too much for those living in Amsterdam. This year, on King’s Day, Amsterdam turned completely orange. Even though the relaxation of measures was to take place just one day later, people decided that it was one day too much. The people in the streets did not seem to care about the potentially dangerous consequences of their actions. Considering what people have been through this past year, should we not give this one day to the people of Amsterdam?
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