Orange streets and bag walking: Dutch King’s Day

Today we will travel a bit and immerse ourselves in a world of orange, flea markets and parties. Why? Because in the Netherlands, this weekend, on Saturday, is King’s day! Every year on April 27th, the whole country fills up with orange crowns, boas and flags. What is this day and what is its history? What do Dutch people like to do today? And why is everything orange? Don’t worry, I will take you by the hand and introduce you to this special day!

Accessories for King’s day

Princess’ – Queen’s – King’s Day

The history of the day goes back all the way to 1885. In that year, on 31 August, Princess’ Day was celebrated. It was the 5th birthday of Princess Wilhelmina. When Wilhelmina became queen of the Netherlands, the day became Queen’s Day. In the 1900s, it developed into a serious national celebration. The day would be celebrated as Queen’s Day until 2014, although the date moved to 30 April when Wilhelmina was succeeded by her daughter Juliana. Her successor, Beatrix, did not move the date, as her own birthday is in January, which was seen as not to be a good period for it, since it has many outdoor activities. 

In 2014, the Netherlands got a king after many years of queens. King Willem-Alexander came to the throne, and with him, Queen’s Day also changed to King’s Day. As his birthday is also in April, he decided to celebrate it on this date: 27th of April. For some years following the change, tourists were often confused, and even now, sometimes orange-covered people are spotted on 30 April – it is a good lesson to always check if your tourist information is up to date!

Orange? Red white blue?

King’s Day usually has a specific colour palette: orange, red, white and blue. The last three are fairly easy to trace back, as they are the colours of the Dutch flag. But orange? Well, it also has quite a simple explanation: the Dutch royal family is called “House of Oranje”, which literally means the colour orange! It is also the colour of the Dutch national football team, so it is very popular during the World or European Championships. For King’s day, too, many people dress in orange. Orange, as well as red-white-blue accessories are also very widespread.

More accessoires for King’s day, including a slightly scary mask…

Activities

So what do people do during King’s day? In recent years, the day has become quite popular also for tourists, especially in Amsterdam. Aside from dressing up in the colours associated with the Netherlands, there are some activities that are especially popular around King’s Day:

  • Festivals: Usually, there are big parties organised on the night before and the day of King’s Day. It is a great day to party, dress up, and perhaps drink some beer, if you’re in the mood πŸ˜‰ 
  • Flea Markets: A longstanding tradition around King’s day are the flea markets. In many cities, the center turns into a big open-air market space, where people lay their stuff out on blankets in an attempt to make their houses more Marie Kondo-friendly.
  • Visit of the King: King’s day wouldn’t be King’s day without, well, the king! Every year, the royal family visits a different city in the Netherlands. This year, it will be the city of Amersfoort.
Sometimes, kids decorate their bikes and have a ‘bike parade’. Here is a picture of my sister from my family archives πŸ˜‰

Games

Although for most young people, King’s day is a day of big partying, there are also many activities that are more suitable for families and children. For example, there are many traditional games that are often played during King’s day, which include ‘nail pooping’ (spijkerpoepen), ‘bag walking’ (zaklopen) and ‘cookie biting’ (koekhappen). 

Dutch children playing a game of ‘nail pooping’

Did this post make you excited about King’s day? It is probably a bit too late to go to the Netherlands this weekend, but it is never too early to start planning for next year! Or bring the Netherlands to your country and organise a King’s day-inspired event!

Celebrating King’s day 2018 at an event in Sweden

Post Author: Sacha Bogaers

Sacha Bogaers
I am 23 years old and moved from Sweden to Greece for ten months. My main interests are human rights, activism, and art. I also love writing about LGBTQ+-related topics and social justice.

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