Celebrating Liberation Day in the Netherlands
Every 5 May, the Netherlands marks the end of Nazi Germany occupation during World War II with a range of events on this Dutch public holiday.
Bust out your Dutch flags and wave them high and proud because it’s that time of the year again: Liberation Day.
Every 5 May, the Netherlands celebrates the country’s freedom and the capitulation of Nazi Germany during the same day in 1945. For the Dutch, this signifies the end of World War II when Canadian General Charles Foulkes and German Commander-in-Chief Johannes Balskowitz signed an agreement for the German army’s surrender in Wageningen.
The nation was largely liberated by the First Canadian Army, which consisted of Canadian, British, Polish, American, Belgian, Dutch and Czechoslovak troops, and in some parts, the British Second Army.
A day before Bevrijdingsdag (as the Dutch refer to it) on 4 May is Dodenherdenking or Remembrance Day, a sombre event when they pay homage to the fallen and those who fought a sacrificed their lives during WWII and in all other wars. A two-minute of silence is observed throughout the country at 8pm.
In contrast, Liberation Day is a colourful fête where the Dutch celebrate freedom and democracy everywhere. This year’s Bevrijdingsdag falls on a Thursday when the 71st anniversary of the momentous event will be feasted on a grand scale across all 12 Dutch provinces.
Several festivals and parades of veterans are held all over the Netherlands in honour of Liberation Day.
The day’s events are traditionally launched by the Prime Minister in a different province each year and in 2016, it’s Groningen’s turn.
At 9:30am, Groningen’s Grote Markt will open its doors for guests to enjoy a free breakfast until 11am when a lecture is held at the Stadsschouwburg discussing the events surrounding the historical 5 May victory.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte kicks off the day’s activities in the rest of the country at the Stadspark at 1pm after receiving a group of runners carrying a torch lit at the Liberation flame in Wageningen, where the capitulation documents were signed. Every year, a team of 5,000 runners carry the flame to 200 different municipalities in the Netherlands.
While every city hosts their own events, fourteen huge free Liberation Day festivals will be staged all over the country in: Zwolle, Leeuwarden, Groningen, Assen, Almere, Utrecht, Rotterdam, Den Haag, Amsterdam, Haarlem, Wageningen, The Hague, Roermond and Vlissingen. Famous music acts Kovacs, Nielson, Def P and DJs Sunnery James and Ryan Marciano are this year’s Ambassadors of Freedom and will be flown by helicopter to all 14 festivals across the Netherlands.
Some of the most popular festivals that draw hundreds of thousands of spectators are the Liberation Pop Festival in Haarlem, a free pop music festival with three stages in Haarlemmerhoutpark featuring local and international bands, and the Liberation Day Festival in Wageningen, which has 12 podia with top acts with the main podium located at the Duivendaal.
Many revellers also flock to Amsterdam’s Museum square and Den Haag’s Malieveld to delight in the day’s music and festivities. Other than music festivals, however, each city has a slew of other Bevrijdingsdag events up their sleeves like military parades, debates, street theatre performances, festival markets, guided tours, film screenings and even ‘speed dating’ events where people can speak to veterans about their stories and experiences from the war. Visit these official Liberation Day websites for a complete programme of the events happening in Amsterdam and The Hague. You can also click here for Expatica’s full list of Bevrijdingsdag event on 5 May.
Celebrations come to its official rapturous end at the Amstel Bridge in Amsterdam with a traditional televised concert attended by King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima.
What’s on for children
Liberation Day is certainly an event enjoyed not only by adults but by kids as well. Most cities stage a separate children’s festival ending at 7pm.
In Amsterdam, a special Liberation Day festival for kids will take place at Vondelpark’s Open Air Theatre while Rotterdam also offers a smaller children’s stage with music, dancers and comedians on top of a tinker workshop hosted at Vrijheidsplein. Kids visiting Haarlem for Bevrijdingsdag will have the chance to join a Kinderdisco, freestyle football and rock-climbing workshops among many other events and youngsters celebrating the day in Utrecht can stroll around the petting zoo, join a storytelling circle or take part in a cooking show where they can make their own freedom flag-themed pancakes and smoothies.
No matter what age, there will certainly be a Liberation Day event that you will enjoy. So wave that flag and be awash with strong nationalism and the Dutch rood-wit-blauw.
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