Today is a special day in The Netherlands. It is Queensday (Koninginnedag). Basically it is one big party to celebrate the Queen’s birthday. The whole country turns Orange – and I mean that literally – and just generally has a great time.
There are concerts and celebrity events, in the big cities at least. In small towns such as where I live, there are countless activities and things to go and watch. Music, a fun fair, all manner of things for the kids to do. In short, it is a great day.
As with any holiday, my family has a tradition. It is part of what makes this one of my favorite days of the year.
Beginning at 6 am and running through the morning, there is a large children’s market that takes over the entire high street. It is basically a flea market but only for children. Selling their old toys and games etc. You can find some great things here and for next to nothing. After all, it is more for the fun. Even at 6 am the kids are out on the streets, blowing air horns and riding bicycles with tin cans tied to the back, and nobody seems to mind. Not on this day.
We always visit this market, around 07.30. Nice and early, but not too crazy. We spend a lot of the morning just wandering around town, looking at everything that is going on. Before heading back to our Uncle’s house (my wife’s uncle) for Chinese, which is enjoyed by the whole family. Well, my wife’s grandmother, her uncle, her parents, brothers, and us five 🙂
After lunch we all head up to the fun fair, the kids get to go on all of the rides, win some toys and basically get to have a great time doing whatever they want. However, due to a slight change in dinner location, we did the fun fair with them on Saturday. They loved it, even if someone did steal a stuffed pony toy from my 20 month old daughter.
The afternoon is spent back in the town center again, there are normally things going on on the beach and along the promenade too. In the town, once the kids market is tidied away, there is fun and games for them; bouncing castles, a petting zoo, things like that. Live music at both ends of the street and also marching bands that can be seen here, there and everywhere.
With the kids being young, we tend to go home and they head to bed at a relatively normal time. It is a long day for them, but the celebrations go on right until the end of the day, when everything is closed off with a fireworks display.
All in all, it is a great day enjoyed by almost everybody. Each year the Queen makes a visit to a selected city. 9 time out of 10, this goes by without incident. Apart from this one time a couple of years ago when someone tried to kill the queen and her family live on TV. It was pretty freaky to watch. He just charged down the barricades in his car and tried to ram the bus. He missed and instead drove into a large statue. While he missed the Queen, he did sadly drive through a number of spectators. This act sadly cost 6 innocent lives, and will always be remembered. (The below image may be harrowing, so viewer discretion is advised).
The TV images were horrific, but even that couldn’t quash the Queensday spirit. Dampen it for a day yes, but destroy it, hell no. There was something oddly British about the defiant way the country, and the royal family themselves handled the situation.