Every single year, on every 30th of April, we Dutch folks celebrate the fact that we have a monarchy. People roam the streets, and supplement the indispensable orange color in the city with their fiery orange clothes. And by the way, this is true for the day itself as well as the night that precedes Queensday (accompanied by, you guessed it, our favorite alcoholic beverage). And yeah, we call it Queensday – Koninginnedag in Dutch. But this will be the last time in a lot of years we’ll call it that. Because in a couple of days, we’ll have a king.
From 1949 until this year, 2013, we’ve always celebrated Queensday on April 30th. This date is the birthday of our former queen Juliana, and the birthday of the monarch was chosen to celebrate our monarchy. And no, our current queen Beatrix was not born on the same day. Her birthday is at the end of January, and in her opinion that was simply not a particular welcoming time to go out on the streets and party. Weather in the Netherlands at that time of year is, well, not that good.
But on the coming Queensday, the queen will abdicate and prince Willem-Alexander – who ironically has a slight touch of orange hair - will be king of the Netherlands. And from that moment on, on April 27th we will not just celebrate his birthday, but also Kingsday.
But what will change, really? Queensnight – the night before Queensday – will probably be named Kingsnight (which sounds awesome!). But just like every year, students in Groningen will be dressed up in crazy orange costumes and party like there’s no tomorrow. They’ll miss a part of the next day, but probably not everything: the ‘Vrijmarkt’ at the Ubbo Emmiussingel and the Praediniussingel, which is a rabble of all kinds of market stables selling stuff varied from the most beautiful (or, sometimes, ugliest) collectibles to orange food and drinks; streetgames like the more traditional ‘koekhappen’ (cake snapping, in which you blindfolded try to bite cake-on-a-rope out of the air) or all kinds of sports which you’ll find everywhere throughout the city; and of course multiple stages with a lot of performances at for instance the Grote Markt and the Vismarkt. And, how could it be, people drinking on the sunlit streets…
So if you have the chance to be here in Groningen at that time, at the right time, grab your chance and experience what probably will be one of the most flamboyant and crazy national Days you’ll ever experience.
By Rients Verschoor