30 April 2013

Koninginnedag to Koningsdag: Painting the Town Oranje

The 30th of April is a big deal here in the Netherlands: We celebrate Koninginnedag (Queen's Day), a day of partying and festivities honoring Queen Beatrix; but this year there is the added excitement of the Queen's abdication and the coronation of Prince Willem-Alexander.

The Kingdom of the Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy and one of the few countries that has an active and public monarch. It seems that especially in the last few years the Queen's role has become largely symbolic, with the last official political function of appointing the leader of the opposition party being removed last year, but the monarchy continues to play a part in Dutch politics.

The family line of the House of Oranje-Nassau is long, but the Netherlands has only had a monarchy since 1815 when Prince Willem VI proclaimed himself King Willem I. (Once we look back further than 1900, European history often seems confusing to Americans because of all the complex alliances, changing boundaries, intermarriage of royal lines, wars, etc. This is one of those cases for me - I can't accurately describe why there was a Dutch prince but no monarchy in the Netherlands or why the country would switch from a republic to a monarchy at this point in time - but they did, so stick with me...) King Willem III (the grandson of Willem I) was an unpopular king, and in an attempt to drum up more public support the government created the  Prinsessedag (Princess's Day) celebrating the king's five year old daughter and heir, Princess Wilhelmina, on her birthday. When Wilhelmina officially ascended the throne in 1898, the day became known as Koninginnedag. Queen Wilhelmina abdicated the throne in 1948, her daughter Juliana becoming queen. Koninginnedag was moved to 30 April, Queen Juliana's birthday. When Queen Juliana abdicated in 1980, Queen Beatrix kept the tradition on 30 April as a way to continue honoring her own mother. This year, Koninginnedag is an especially big deal because Queen Beatrix is abdicating the throne and her son, Prince Willem-Alexander, will become the first king in the Netherlands since 1890 - next year, the celebration will be known as Koningsdag (King's Day) and celebrated on 27 April, King Willem-Alexander's birthday.*

Between a love of celebrating Queen's Day and the extra excitement of the change in the monarchy, a lot of places are going all out. The color orange (oranje) is everywhere, lots of little girls are dressed up in princess costumes, and there's plenty of commemorative kitsch for purchase (just like when Prince William and Princess Kate were married in the UK). We picked up a couple of things (why not, right?) as little reminders of when we have gotten to witness while living here. Little Man's favorite kitsch is the Albert Heijn grocery chain's Koningswup - the little orange pompoms with crowns and feet. I think mine is the commemorative cookie tin and commemorative hagel (breakfast sprinkles) tin. Or the wine... yeah, my favorite is probably the wine.

Commemorative kitsch!

Our neighborhood is also celebrating with a small fair - complete with a few carnival rides. Little Man was VERY excited when we took him to ride on a few rides - and for the first time ever, he got to go on some rides by himself.

Merry-go-round. Despite the apparent look of concern,
he's actually enjoying himself. This is just poor camera timing.

"Flying" Ride.

Train roller coaster.

For the evening, we're celebrating like everyone else. We've got our own decorations up and oranje to wear. It's still not a system or celebration we're used to having, but so far it's pretty fun, and we'll take advantage of it.

*If you've noticed the gap between 1890 (the year King Willem III died) and 1898 (the year Queen Wilhelmina officially took the throne) - well done! This isn't a typo - Queen Wilhelmina was 10 years old when her father died, and het mother, Queen Emma, acted as regent until Wilhelmina came of age (18) in 1898. 

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