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Celebrating King's Day in Amsterdam

King's Day - The national festival of orange craziness and the most favoured day of Dutchies and internationals alike! Ever wondered what celebrating King's Day is really like? Join Sophie on a Dutch adventure from King's Night to King's Day.


King’s night, known as “Koningsnacht” in Dutch, is celebrated on the evening before King's Day in the Netherlands. It takes place annually on April 26th, preceding King’s Day which marks the birthday of the reigning King of the Netherlands. On the eve of King’s Day, many take advantage of the public holiday the following day and go out partying with friends. King’s Night is famous for its crowded bars, festive moods, and the excited anticipation for the day to come. My boyfriend and I were eager to join in on the fun and I would love to share my days and experience with you all! 

We kicked off our King’s Night with a simple couple’s dinner with charcuterie dinner, laughter, and a little pre-gaming. The ambience was cozy, with candles flickering, music playing, and lively conversation filling the room. I always love hosting and enjoying a good evening to catch up with friends, so I was really in my zone on Friday. As the evening went on and one bottle of wine led to another, we found ourselves in high spirits with a festive mood, ready for the celebrations ahead. Braving the unpredictable Dutch weather, we hopped on our bikes and headed to the lively area of Jordaan. There, we bumped into even more friends, and our evening only got better from there. Despite the rain, we danced to live music, enjoyed a few made memories that I will not soon forget. A night like this can hardly be planned, it must unfold spontaneously. These spontaneous encounters make me appreciate Amsterdam for being a blend between a big city and small town. Here you have the emotional and intellectual space of a big city where individuality thrives, yet chance meetings with friends are common occurrences. To me this makes Amsterdam the feel full of opportunity but at the same time cozy and homey.


As the night drew to a close, I was promised that tomorrow would exceed all my expectations - no matter how grand they were. Big shoes to fee but let’s see, I thought. And so, I went to bed excited for what King’s Day had in store for me.

 

King’s Day

Waking up the next morning, there was a sense of urgency in the air. Despite the lingering hangover from last night’s activities, we were determined to get out of bed and make the most of the day. King’s Day starts early, and my boyfriend, being Dutch himself, was eager to give me a true Dutch experience and show me everything this day had to offer. Contrary to what you might think, King’s Day isn’t all about drinking but in fact it's a celebration for all ages. During the daytime, streets come alive with busy street markets where people sell everything from second-hand goods to homemade treats. Kids mark their vending spots with flags and chalk days in advance, and some even camp overnight to secure the best locations. I’ve heard thar the Vondel Park should be insanely busy and while I wanted to go there we ended up sticking to the areas closer to home. We walked around Apollolaan and Beethovenstraat. I didn’t sell anything, but I definitely participated in the buying part :D. It is such a good opportunity to explore Dutch culture and pick up some unique souvenirs or make a bargain second-hand deal.


In the larger cities like Amsterdam, the streets are closed off to traffic and make room for the sea of people taking to the streets in celebration. In short, the Dutch dress up in orange to celebrate the national color and honor the royal family. But the longer explanation behind wearing orange in the Netherlands stems from the House of Orange-Nassau, a noble family that played a significant role in Dutch history. This is also the linage from which the current king, King Willem-Alexander, stems. Nevertheless, the color orange became associated with the House of Orange-Nassau because of William of Orange (Willem van Oranje), also known as William the Silent, who led the Dutch Revolt against Spanish rule in the 16th century. William of Orange was the founder of the House of Orange-Nassau and is considered the father of the Dutch nation. He became a symbol of Dutch independence and resistance against foreign oppression. The color orange became a symbol of loyalty to the House of Orange-Nassau and later evolved into a national color representing the Dutch national identity (Kennedy: 2017). Today, orange is mostly seen in Dutch national holidays, such as King's Day, sports events, and other patriotic occasions. So, in true Dutch spirit, we dressed in orange and joined the crowds on the streets. From the markets, we made our way into the city centre, where the festivities continued, and crowds formed. It was almost impossible to bike through and to put it lightly - some areas are not for the claustrophobic. I wasn’t the least bit concerned about it because I really liked how the whole city seemed to be at a complete standstill yet also be incredibly alive at the same time. Open-air DJs turned sidewalks into dance floors and everywhere I looked, there was music, laughter, and dancing. I even had time to let a stranger paint my cheeks with cute little Dutch flags to go with my orange bucket hat.

 

Our afternoon plans led us to Bloemstraat, where our friend Peiter had set up a party spot with tables, crates of beer and snacks. But what ended up making the party truly memorable was the karaoke speaker. We blasted everything from ABBA hits to local Dutch favorites, and no matter the song, we all sang along with great enthusiasm. Everyone around us joined in too! Brice jokes that it no matter what the weather is always nice on King’s Day, and I was skeptical because of all the rain from the weeks before… But I have to admit that before midday I was goofing around in a tank top under the clear sky and warm sun. So maybe Brice is right – maybe the weather always favors this special day.

While it might seem a little embarrassing to think back on, it was definitely one of those unforgettable moments. It was a day I will remember and cherish for many years to come, and one that is deserves all the romanticizing above.

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