Friday, April 27 is King’s Day or Koningsdag in the Netherlands. It’s the birthday of the new King Willem-Alexander, and he is the first king celebrating the national holiday since its inception. Before his mother, Queen Beatrice, abdicated the throne to him in 2013, Queen’s Day or Konningennidag, was celebrated on April 30, which is her mother’s birthday. The tradition started in 1891 with Queen Wilhemina, whose father King Willem III, was not so popular. Wilhemina passed it in 1948 to her daughter Queen Juliana, who then passed it to her daughter, Queen Beatrice, when she ascended the throne in 1980. As King Willem-Alexander has three daughters, the tradition will revert back to Queen’s Day when he turns over the throne to his eldest princess daughter.
King Willem-Alexander and his family.
It’s a day for oranjegekte or ‘orange madness.’ Everybody dresses in orange and drinks beer and orange colored drinks and parties all day long. The reason for the color orange is that the monarchy is from the Royal House of Orange-Nassau. There is also the national vrijmarket, or flea markets and garage sales all over the Netherlands, for people to offload their junk.
Kids celebrate by playing a game called koekhappen, where they catch spice cake ontbijtkoek, dangling from a string in their mouths. Made with rye flower and a long list of spices, ontibjtkoek, is like a deeper version of gingerbread cake. A variation of the game is appelhappen, where an apple dipped in stroop (a Dutch syrup similar to caramel) is attached to the thread. The stroop makes it difficult to take a bite of the apple without getting a faceful of delicious syrup. Stroopwaffels – two thin Dutch waffles glued together with stroop are now being served on United Airlines flights as a snack, like their Dutch counterpart, KLM.
Dutch King’s Day Cake Pops
I will be wearing orange Friday, as my fifth great grandparents, Rainier and Grada Reinsen, immigrated from the Netherlands to New Orleans in 1849. They were the unicorns known as Dutch Catholics, from the Brabant province, which was home to artist Vincent Van Gogh, and the Dutch ancestor to goetta, balkenbrij. Maybe that’s why I love the Netherlands so much. Amsterdam is my Paris. I love the art museums and canals of that romantic city. I loved the ‘Legends of the Gnomes’ as a kid, created by Dutch artist, Rien Portvliet. I am a huge fan of Dutch salty black licorice. I’m mad about a nice Dutch pannekouken or pancake for breakfast with spicy stewed apples on top. The best Thai savory pannekouken of my life was had on a visit to art city, Utrecht. And, as gross as it may seem to the uninitiated, I am also a huge fan of Dutch favorite smoked herring and matjes – the variety of pickled herring from the area of Northern Europe.
So if you see someone dressed in orange, or with orange hair on Friday, wish them Happy King’s Day!