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Queen's Day

It's all about Orange


Queen's Day
Photo © Ellen Schelkers


The investiture of Willem-Alexander as King on April 30, 2013 brought an end to the tradition of celebrating Queen's Day (<i>Koninginnedag</i>) on that day. From 2014 the annual Dutch public holidaywill be known as King's Day and will be officially celebrated on April 27 (unless it falls on a Sunday) .

What was this holiday?

It officially commemorated former Queen Beatrix’s birthday. What many people didn't realize, however, is that it was actually not that Queen’s birthday, but her mother’s (the former Queen Juliana).

Queen’s Night

On the eve of Queen’s Day, which was known as Queen’s Night (or Koninginnenacht), Dutch people from far and wide descended on areas with cafes, nightclubs and bars. Amsterdam was especially popular. Many venues held special themed evenings, but the party usually spilled out onto the streets and went on all night long.

The Day

Queen Beatrix always visited one or two towns where she was entertained by locals and children, often with traditional Dutch dances, songs and craft demonstrations. This was generally a civilized and charming affair, befitting the dignity of a queen.

Meanwhile, the rest of Holland went crazy. Special concerts and events were held in the main squares, often featuring well-known DJ’s and bands. Again, Amsterdam was a popular destination, with up to two million people partying in the city streets some years. Imagine one big churning flow of happy people, clad in orange clothing and headgear. The ubiquitous orange theme is in honor of the royal family, the House of Orange.

Many cafes and bars decorated their facades with themed posters and orange decorations. The larger squares writhed with people dancing to the beat of the music, while jam-packed boats, pumping house music, crowded the canals. It was not unusual to get stuck in a human traffic jam on Queen’s Day, especially in busy areas like the Jordaan and the central canal areas. This was no day for Agoraphobics!


Queen’s Day was the one day of the year that anyone was allowed to sell anything in the streets. This giant flea market is called Vrijmarkt (literally, free market), because people don’t have to pay tax on what they sell. People often got rid of old junk this way, but it was also a day of humor, and games and challenges were all part of the fun. The Vondelpark was reserved for the children’s Vrijmarkt, where children sold their old toys and displayed their musical, and other, talents. This was particularly charming.

Orange feast

It was quite usual for a group of friends to descend on someone’s house to chat and relax after the big day. Everyone nursed parched mouths from all the drinking, singing and shouting, as well as empty stomachs. A pre-prepared buffet kept them happy. It’s all about Orange on Queen's Day, and any and all orange foods will do.

A themed Queen’s Day menu could have look something like this:

  • Orange and Fennel Salad
  • Carrot and pineapple salad
  • Orange soup (made with pumpkin and butternut squash)
  • Bread
  • Pizza with griddled orange paprika, smoked ham and Mimolette cheese (this orangey version of Edam owes its orange color to added beta carotene)
  • Bowls of garish orange colored ‘cheese’ chips and crisps
  • Oranje tompoes
  • Vla (cold custard) and (orange colored) fruit, such as peaches, apricots and mango, served in martini glasses
  • Beer on tap, with orange paper cups
  • Orange jello shots
  • Big jugs of freshly squeezed orange juice, with or without added champagne
  • Thermos cans of coffee and tea


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