Koningsdag (Dutch pronunciation:
[ˈkoːnɪŋsˌdɑx] ( listen)) or King's Day is a national
holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 27 April (26
April if the 27th is a Sunday), the date marks the birth of King
Up until 2013, when Queen Beatrix abdicated and was succeeded by her
son Willem-Alexander, the holiday was known as Koninginnedag (Dutch
pronunciation: [koːnɪˈŋɪnəˌdɑx] ( listen)) or
Queen's Day and was celebrated on 30 April.
The holiday was initially observed on 31 August 1885 as Prinsessedag
or Princess's Day, the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, heir to
the Dutch throne. On her accession in November 1890 the holiday
acquired the name Koninginnedag, first celebrated on 31 August 1891.
In September 1948, Wilhelmina's daughter Juliana ascended to the
throne and the holiday was moved to Queen Juliana's birthday, 30
April. The holiday was celebrated on this date from 1949.
Juliana's daughter, Beatrix, retained the celebration on 30 April
after she ascended the throne in 1980, though her birthday was on 31
January. Beatrix altered her mother's custom of receiving a floral
parade at Soestdijk Palace, instead choosing to visit different Dutch
towns each year and join in the festivities with her children. In
2009, the Queen was celebrating Queen's Day in the city of Apeldoorn
when a man attempted to attack her by trying to ram the Royal family's
bus with his car; instead he drove into a crowd of people and crashed
into a monument: seven people in the crowd were killed, as was the
Queen Beatrix abdicated on Koninginnedag 2013, and her son,
Willem-Alexander, ascended the throne (the first king since the
observance of the national holiday). As a result, the holiday became
Koningsdag from 2014 on, and the celebration was shifted
three days back to 27 April, the King's birthday.
Koningsdag is known for its nationwide vrijmarkt ("free market"), at
which the Dutch sell their used items. It is also an opportunity for
"orange madness" or oranjegekte, a kind of frenzy named for the
1.1 Wilhelmina (1885–1948)
1.2 Juliana (1948–1980)
1.3 Beatrix (1980–2013)
2.1 Flea market
3 Observance in
Netherlands territories outside Europe
5 External links
Koninginnedag on 31 August 1932 in Amsterdam
Faced with an unpopular monarchy, in the 1880s the liberals in Dutch
government sought a means of promoting national unity. King William
III was disliked, but his four-year-old daughter Princess Wilhelmina
was not. A holiday honouring King William had been intermittently
held on his birthday, and J. W. R. Gerlach, editor of the newspaper
Utrechts Provinciaal en Stedelijk Dagblad, proposed that the
princess's birthday be observed as an opportunity for patriotic
celebration and national reconciliation. Prinsessedag or Princess's
Day was first celebrated in the
Netherlands on 31 August 1885,
Wilhelmina's fifth birthday. The young princess was paraded through
the streets, waving to the crowds. The first observance occurred
only in Utrecht, but other municipalities quickly began to observe it,
organizing activities for children. Further processions were held
in the following years, and when Wilhelmina inherited the throne in
1890, Prinsessedag was renamed Koninginnedag, or Queen's Day. By
then almost every Dutch town and city was marking the holiday.
The celebration proved popular, and when the Queen came of age in
1898, her inauguration was postponed a week to 6 September so as not
to interfere with Koninginnedag. The annual holiday fell on the
final day of school summer vacation, which made it popular among
schoolchildren. It is uncertain how much Wilhelmina enjoyed the
festivities; although writer Mike Peek, in a 2011 magazine article
about Koninginnedag, suggests she was enthusiastic, there is a
story of Wilhelmina, after a tired return from one of these birthday
processions, making her doll bow until the toy's hair was dishevelled,
and telling it, "Now you shall sit in a carriage and bow until your
back aches, and see how much you like being a Queen!"
Koninginnedag 1902 not only honoured the Queen's birthday, but was
celebrated with increased enthusiasm as it marked her recovery from
serious illness. Wilhelmina rarely attended Koninginnedag
festivities after reaching adulthood. She attended ceremonies for
her silver jubilee in 1923, which included massive festivities in
Amsterdam and The Hague, despite the Queen's request that large sums
not be spent because economic conditions at the time were difficult.
To ensure that even the poorer parts of the city were not excluded,
bands played simultaneously at 28 locations across The Hague.
Wilhelmina made further exceptions for such events as her fiftieth
birthday in 1930. During the German occupation of the Netherlands
during World War II, Koninginnedag celebrations were banned, and
members of the Orange Committees, which organize the holiday events,
destroyed their records for fear of German reprisals.
Military parade in Arnhem, Koninginnedag 1958.
Another summertime birthday celebration in the
Netherlands was that of
Wilhelmina's mother, Queen-Regent Emma, who after Wilhelmina attained
adulthood generally spent her own birthday, 2 August, at Soestdijk
Palace in Baarn. Until her death in 1934, Emma received an annual
floral tribute from the townsfolk on her birthday. In 1937
Wilhelmina's daughter and heiress, Princess Juliana, took up residence
Soestdijk Palace following her marriage, and the townsfolk made
their floral presentation to her, moving the date to Juliana's
birthday, 30 April. In September 1948 Juliana ascended to the Dutch
throne and from 1949 onwards Koninginnedag was on her birthday.
The change in date attracted immediate approval from Dutch children,
who gained an extra day of holiday. The first observance of the
holiday on the new date included a huge circus at the Amsterdam
Olympic Stadium—one not attended by the royal family, who remained
at Soestdijk Palace. Queen Juliana retained the floral tribute,
staying each year on Koninginnedag at
Soestdijk Palace to receive it.
The parade became televised in the 1950s, and Koninginnedag
increasingly became a national holiday, with workers given the day
off. Juliana had a reputation as a "queen of the people", and
according to Peek, "it felt as if she invited her subjects to the
In early 1966 Juliana's eldest daughter, Princess Beatrix, married
Klaus-Georg von Amsberg. The marriage was controversial because the
new Prince Claus (as he was dubbed) was a German, and Claus himself
had served in the German Army during the war. Anti-German riots in
Amsterdam marred the wedding day and the following observances of
Koninginnedag. Fearing further demonstrations on the holiday,
government officials decided to open
Amsterdam city centre to the
vrijmarkt ("free market") that had long been held on Koninginnedag in
the outskirts of town, principally for children. The vrijmarkt
occupied the space where demonstrations might have been held, and
began a new custom.
Queen Beatrix speaks with the mayor of The Hague,
Wim Deetman in
Scheveningen, Koninginnedag 2005.
When Queen Beatrix succeeded her mother Juliana on the latter's
abdication on 30 April 1980, the new queen decided to keep the holiday
on 30 April as a tribute to her mother. (If 30 April fell on a
Sunday, Koninginnedag was observed the previous day—this occurred
most recently in 2006.) The reason was practical as
well—Beatrix's actual birthday on 31 January would have been less
conducive to the traditional outdoor activities. Rather than
remaining at the palace and letting the Dutch people come to her,
Beatrix instead usually visited two towns each year for Koninginnedag
celebrations. Local crafts and customs were demonstrated for the
royal family, who had the opportunity to join in.
Koninginnedag celebrations have sometimes been affected or disrupted.
In 1988 three British servicemen stationed in Germany who were in the
Netherlands for Koninginnedag were killed in Irish Republican Army
attacks. In 1996 the celebrations in
Rotterdam were dampened by an
alcohol ban, put in place following riots earlier in the week after
local football club
Feyenoord won the Dutch league championship.
The Queen's scheduled 2001 visits to
postponed for one year owing to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth
On 30 April 2009, Beatrix and other members of the royal family were
at the town of
Apeldoorn when a 38-year-old man, Karst Tates, drove
his Suzuki Swift automobile into the crowd, narrowly missing the
open-top bus the royal family members were riding on. Seven
people were killed and further celebrations were cancelled. Tates
died of injuries sustained in the attack soon afterwards and his exact
motives remain unclear, though it appears his target was the royal
family. The incident provoked questions about whether the royal
family should continue to participate in the celebrations. However,
Beatrix indicated that the tragedy would not stop her from meeting her
people. In 2010, Beatrix and her family visited
Zeeland province. There were no incidents, and
afterwards, the Queen thanked
Zeeland for giving Koninginnedag back to
her family, and to her country.
Queen Beatrix and her son and heir Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange
Woudrichem in 2007.
Queen Beatrix visited the following towns and cities over the years on
Veere and Breda
1982: Harlingen and Zuidlaren
Lochem and Vaassen
1984: The Hague
1985: Anna Paulowna, Callantsoog, and Schagen
1986: Deurne and Meijel
1988: Genemuiden, Kampen, and informally Amsterdam
Goedereede and Oud-Beijerland
1990: Haren and Loppersum
Buren and Culemborg
Vlieland and Sneek
Emmeloord and Urk
Eijsden and Sittard
Sint Maartensdijk and Bergen op Zoom
Marken and Velsen
Doesburg and Zutphen
Houten and Utrecht
Katwijk and Leiden
2001: visits cancelled
Hoogeveen and Meppel
Wijhe and Deventer
Warffum and Groningen
Scheveningen and The Hague
Zeewolde and Almere
Woudrichem and 's-Hertogenbosch
2008: Makkum and Franeker
Apeldoorn (2009 attack on the Dutch royal family)
Wemeldinge and Middelburg
Weert and Thorn
Rhenen and Veenendaal
On 28 January 2013 Queen Beatrix announced her abdication on 30 April
2013 in favour of her son, Willem-Alexander. Since this date
coincided with Koninginnedag the royal family's planned visit to De
Amstelveen was cancelled, although Koninginnedag 2013 was
still celebrated throughout the country.
King Willem-Alexander, Queen Maxima and Princess Beatrix during the
Koningsdag 2014 in De Rijp.
Koningsdag bike race (2015).
On 30 April 2013, Queen's Day, Willem-Alexander succeeded his mother
Beatrix and became the first King of the
Netherlands in 123 years.
Consequently, from 2014 onwards the name has been changed from Queen's
Day to King's Day. The date has also changed from 30 April to 27
April, which is the birthday of Willem-Alexander. On the first
King's Day – held on 26 April 2014 because 27 April 2014 was a
Sunday – the king visited
De Rijp and
Amstelveen (originally planned
to be visited by Queen Beatrix in 2013, but postponed due to her
King Willem-Alexander visited the following towns and cities over the
years on Koningsdag:
De Rijp and Amstelveen
The festivities on
Koningsdag are often organised by Orange Committees
(Dutch: Oranjecomité), local associations that seek sponsorship
and donations for their activities. In recent years some committees
have had difficulty in recruiting new members from among the younger
Vrijmarkt, Koninginnedag 2011, Deventer
The vrijmarkt (literally 'free market') is a nationwide flea market,
at which many people sell their used goods.
Koningsdag is the one day
of the year that the Dutch government permits sales on the street
without a permit and without the payment of value added tax. ING
Bank found in 2011 that one in five Dutch residents planned to sell at
the vrijmarkt and estimated they would earn €100 per person for a
total turnover of €290 million. Over half of the Dutch people
buy at the vrijmarkt; ING Bank predicted they would spend €28 each
at the 2011 vrijmarkt. Queen Beatrix has been known to buy at the
vrijmarkt; in 1995 she purchased a floor lamp. The bank also
forecast that the lowest level of sales at the vrijmarkt in 2011 would
be in the province of Limburg, site of Queen Beatrix's visit.
Among the most popular areas for the vrijmarkt in
Amsterdam is the
Jordaan quarter, but the wide Apollolaan in front of the Hilton hotel
Amsterdam is gaining in popularity. Children sell their
cast-off toys or garments at the Vondelpark, also in southern
Amsterdam, and in a spirit of fun passers-by often offer the young
sellers more than they are asking for the goods. Until 1996 the
vrijmarkt began the evening before and continued for 24 hours.
This was ended in the hope of gaining a pause in the celebrations so
preparations could be made for the daytime activities. Utrecht,
uniquely among Dutch municipalities, retains the overnight
Koningsdag now sees large-scale celebrations, with many concerts and
special events in public spaces, particularly in Amsterdam. An outdoor
concert is held on Amsterdam's Museumplein, where as many as
800,000 people may gather. To aid visitors in returning home by
train after the festivities outdoor events must end by 20:00, and the
Museumplein show by 21:00. The city centre is closed to cars, and
no trams ride in the heart of the city; people are urged to avoid
Amsterdam Centraal railway station and use other stations if possible
from their direction. International trains that normally begin or
Amsterdam Centraal are instead directed to a suburban
A concert given by the Dutch band Leaf in
The Hague during
Koninginnenacht in 2008
Revellers dressed in orange in Amsterdam, Koninginnedag 2007
In recent years parties and concerts have been held the evening before
Koningsdag. Until 2013, nightclubs across the
special events for what became known as Koninginnenacht (Queen's
Night). Many young people celebrate in the streets and squares
(and in Amsterdam, the canals as well) throughout the night, and after
all-night partying join the crowds at the vrijmarkt.
While King's Day celebrations take place throughout the Netherlands,
Amsterdam is a popular destination for many revelers. Often the city's
750.000 residents are joined by up to 1 million visitors. In recent
Amsterdam authorities have taken some measures to try and stem
the flow of visitors as the city became too full.
Those taking part in
Koningsdag commonly dye their hair orange or wear
orange clothing in honour of the House of Orange-Nassau, which rules
over the Netherlands. Orange-coloured drinks are also popular.
This colour choice is sometimes dubbed "orange madness", or in Dutch,
oranjegekte. A local Orange Committee member said of Koninginnedag
Friendships—and community—will be formed. For me that’s really
what Queen’s Day is all about. It’s not an outburst of patriotism,
it’s not even about the popularity of the royal family. It’s about
a sense of belonging. For one day, everybody is the same in Holland.
Bright orange and barmy.
Children celebrate with a variety of games including koekhappen (in
which they catch spice cake dangling from a string in their mouths)
and spijker poepen (in which they tie string around their waist a nail
dangling at one end, which they attempt to lower into a glass
Koningsdag is an opportunity for the monarch to honour citizens for
their service to the Netherlands. In 2011, Queen Beatrix issued an
honours list noting the work of 3,357 people, most of whom became
members of the Order of Orange-Nassau.
Netherlands territories outside Europe
Koningsdag is also celebrated in Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten,
constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. It is
less widely celebrated on the Caribbean island of Bonaire, also a part
of the Kingdom, where the local celebration of Dia di Rincon (held on
30 April) is more popular.
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Media related to
Koningsdag at Wikimedia Commons
Media related to Koninginnedag at Wikimedia Commons
Public holidays in the Netherlands
New Year's Day
Other public holidays
Remembrance of the Dead
Saint Nicholas' Eve