Thursday, 30 April 2009

Queen's Day

Self portrait. Sorry about the grumpy face, but the sun was glaring.

Today is Queen's Day in the Netherlands. A day where we celebrate our reigning monarch's birthday. It first started with Queen Wilhelmina whose birthday was in August. Her successor was Queen Juliana whose birthday was on April 30th. But her successor: Queen Beatrix celebrates her own birthday on January 31st. Not exactly the day you want to have off and sit on a market selling your stuff all day! So, instead of moving the holiday to her birthday, she decided April 30th was good enough for her.

Her mother had always had a huge parade in front of her house (Paleis Soestdijk). The boyscouts, Salvation Army, choirs, schoolchildren, OAP's and all other groups and organisations would march past the Queen, her husband Prince Bernhard and their children and grandchildren. But when Beatrix took over, she abandoned that immediately, instead deciding that every year, she and her husband (when he was alive) and children and grandchildren would visit one or two towns or villages in the country.

The time when all three of her princely sons were lost on a huge fun-fair in Amsterdam are long gone, but bobbing for apples, sack races and all other old-fashioned games are still part and parcel of the whole day.

The places she doesn't visit don't just sit in front of the television watching her walk, no they organise their own parties. Freemarkets are really common: a decidedly unglorified boot-sale where children especially can sell their stuff. In my hometown it took over the whole of the High Street! People everywhere, trying to find that bargain toy (at €0,50 not too bad) or old computer screen. You don't go hungry on these markets either: scouts selling cookies, children selling lemonade and cakes (for charity), women selling hamburgers (for Africa), Vietnamese egg-rolls and ice-creams. Because we have a fun-fair as well: cotton candy, doughballs, waffles, donuts and much much more. If after all that food you are hungry: most bars and restaurants are open and selling drinks!
Throw two eggs in my mouth and grab a present
2 eggs for €1

And then there are the stands: the ones on the fair like shooting and angling ducks, but also the freemarket ones. You take a large vat, dump some sawdust or shredded newspaper in and some cheap presents and the kids are happy. However, the one in the photo was just a little bit better: Throw two eggs in the mouth(s) and then you get to grab something! As you can see, not everyone did fare that well. Most of the throwers missed altogether, covering Her Majesty Queen Beatrix (left) and Her Royal Highness Princess Maxima (right) in egg!

Queen Wilhelmina would turn in her grave if she saw this!

Update: This afternoon a complete idiot drove his car at full speed into a crowd of spectators. They were watching the Queen and her family while they were on an open bus. The man never used his brakes. He killed five and (severely) injured thirteen before coming to a stop at a monument.


  1. Oh man, this sounds like a fun holiday! What a shame about that idiot.. ugh.

    I love your new profile picture though :D

  2. What an awful ending to what sounds like a delightful fete.

  3. I've read about Queen's Day on another blog before and it sounds like so much fun. I like the freemarkets in particular, it's such a nice way to celebrate.
    My heart goes out to the people hurt and killed by the driver and their families.

  4. Shocking event it was. Unbelievable to see that car racing and all those people flying around. So sad the driver died too. Now all the people affected by this horrible action of his, will perhaps never know why he did it.


Any weighty (and not so weighty) comments are welcome!