Go orange with The Netherlands

29th April 2008, Comments 0 comments

The celebration of Queen’s Day on Wednesday is perhaps the only day where the Dutch demonstrate their pride in the country – all decked in orange.

29 April 2008

AMSTERDAM - All of The Netherlands will turn orange on Wednesday to celebrate Queen's Day.

The annual, national celebration of Queen Beatrix's birthday marks what is perhaps the only day of the year for the Dutch to demonstrate how proud they are of their country.

The Dutch typically tell the world that they are neither nationalists nor chauvinists, but on 30 April, everyone dresses up in orange, the colour of the Dutch royal dynasty House of Orange.

Young and old spend days making preparations for what is not only the most popular national holiday in The Netherlands, but a day of entertainment and commerce.

At Rokin Street in Amsterdam, all the normal souvenir shops have been transformed into an ocean of orange. Customers can buy hats, T- shirts, shorts and skirts in orange, as well as orange paint to dye one's hair and face, in addition to orange whistles, balloons and bags.

"Queen's Day boosts my business," one shop owner says.

"Sales go up more than a week before. Only an international football match where the Dutch team ends in the finals can compete with the profits I make before and during Queen's Day."

Queen’s Day over the years
Queen's Day originally was a serious day, the celebration of the late Queen Juliana's birthday. A highly select group of people would be invited to walk by the doorstep of her Soestdijk palace in the central Netherlands for a formal outdoor flower reception.

The royal family, including the queen, would stand atop the doorstep and wave at her guests, while the rest of the country would be off work and participate in outdoor games or browse through one-day flea markets.

At her coronation in 1980, Juliana's daughter Queen Beatrix determined that her mother's birthday would remain a national holiday.

But she also introduced an innovation - she decided to meet the Netherland's common people on the day by visiting two or three villages or cities every year, together with the entire royal family.

For that one day of the year, the royal family would mingle with the rest of the country, playing their games with them and enjoying the accompanying entertainment.

From that time, Queen's Day has gained popularity, including in those cities not visited by the queen.

Amsterdam boasts some 500,000 visitors on Queen's Day, The Hague and Rotterdam 350,000 and Utrecht 250,000.

The packed city centres are replete with flea markets, children play the violin or guitar, and magicians.

As casual as the Queen's visits may appear on live television broadcasts, the truth is that they are strictly organised under the direct supervision of the queen herself.

The city or village the queen is due to visit prepares a programme, which is then sent to the palace for inspection and approval.

Queen’s plan for 2008
This year, the queen and her family will be visiting Makkum and Franeker, with populations of 3,400 and 13,000 respectively.

"Our programme was approved immediately," Franeker press spokesman Paul Loonstra says proudly.

Hosting the queen costs several hundreds of thousands of euros - a major investment for a small town like Franeker, Loonstra says.

But he adds that "hosting the queen is not only an honour but also pays off economically in the long run."

Booming sales for business people
Queen's Day stirs up the business instinct in all Dutchmen, making them all feel for one day at least like true business people, even if the business is only at a flea market.

Mark de Jager, 23, collects electronic devices all year long to sell on Queen's Day.

"I make some EUR 700 usually," he says.

Children and their parents often sell clothing and toys they have outgrown.

"It's fun and we even get to keep some pocket-money," says Marleen de Geer, 35, who makes "between EUR 150 and EUR 180" on Queen's Day.

This year, she and her children are also planning to sell home- made cookies.

As for the financial benefits to the cities themselves, Paul Loonstra cannot provide details.

"It is difficult to establish exact numbers," he says. "But all cities that hosted her say their city's image improved considerably afterwards and attracted a lot more tourists."

Whether or not it will pay off financially, depends most likely on the weather.

"Several years back I had great stuff to sell," says De Jager, "but I only made EUR 15 because it was poring all day!"

The current forecast predicts a sunny spring day for Wednesday.

[dpa / Erwin Boogert / Expatica]

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