Celebrating Liberation Day in the Netherlands

Celebrating Liberation Day in the Netherlands

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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. In 2017 Bevrijdingsdag falls on a Friday when the 72nd anniversary of the momentous event will be feasted on a grand scale across all 12 Dutch provinces.

The 2017 annual survey on Dutch issues revealed that locals still overwhelmingly regarded 4 May (Remembrance Day) and May 5 (Liberation Day) as important dates in the national Dutch holiday calendar, with eight out of 10 Dutch people observing the two minutes’ silence on 4 May, while six in 10 people report following the Remembrance Day ceremony on television or radio. It is also a time for national Dutch pride, with eight in 10 reporting they feel ‘a strong national bond’ for the two days.

While Liberation Day is not a public Dutch national holiday seven in 10 Dutch people believe it should be, with three in 10 people saying they would opt to exchange Good Friday for Liberation Day.

Liberation Day celebrations

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 2017, it’s North-Holland's turn.

On Thursday 4 May, during the evening, His Majesty King William Alexander and Her Majesty Queen Maxima will be present at the memorial meeting in de Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. Afterwards, the king and the queen lay the first memorial wreath on the National Monument at de Dam.

The theme of the celebration is 'The Power of the Personal Story'. In and around the province, people will express themselves and their personal stories in a variety of ways. The 5th lecture will be hosted by well known actor Nasrdin Dchar, in the presence of Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Commissioner Johan Remkes and the Chairman of the National Committee Gerdi Verbeet. The 5th of May children's reading is held by Neal de Hoop (12) from Alkmaar. Following this, the Dutch Prime Minister will hold a speech at the Bevrijdingspop festival in Haarlem, where he will ignite the Liberation Flame. This will also be broadcast live on Dutch television channel NPO 1, between 12 and 1pm.

Every year, a team of 5,000 runners carry a torch lit at the Liberation Flame in Wageningen, where the capitulation documents were signed. Every year a team of 5,000 runnners carry the flame to 200 different municipalities in the Netherlands. 

Liberation Day

Liberation Day events

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. 

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

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 Maxima.

Bevrijdingsdag children's events

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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