Today was Queensday in the Netherlands. There’s a detailed description on Wikipedia–where else?–but in short, it’s a national holiday celebrating our queen (though it’s held on the birthday of the previous queen for reasons of weather).
It’s funny, because the Dutch pride themselves on being a very practical, level-headed people. We don’t really do the patriotism thing. Three exceptions:
- Queensday. BREAK OUT THE GIANT ORANGE WIGS.
- Soccer. BREAK OUT THE FACEPAINT.
- When we’re criticized. We’ll be all, “Oh, nah, we’re not really that patriotic, we’re way too sober for that,” and then someone goes, “You know, the Netherlands have a real problem with this-and-that” and then this orange haze of pure rage covers our vision and we wake up three hours later asking “WHAT JUST HAPPENED.”
That said, I don’t think Queensday is that much about patriotism, though it looks like it on the surface–there’s flags and facepaint and “I LOVE HOLLAND” shirts. It’s an excuse to… well, here’s how we celebrate it:
- Orange. Just… orange.
- Nationwide garage sales held on the streets. Everything from ten-year-old sunglasses to brand-new clothes to stained My Little Ponies cover every conceivable foot of pavement.
- ORANGE. Jeans and hats and hair dye.
- Getting the day off work. We’re so keen on this, in fact, that if April 30th falls on a Sunday, we’ll move Queensday to April 29th instead.
- Partying. Lots of clubs organize Queensnight parties and the beer consumption is through the freaking roof.
- ORANGE. Flags and socks and shirts and wigs and coats and flowers and and and and…
Because of how busy the Amsterdam city center is, they lock it off from most traffic, trams included. This makes the streets a free-for-all, with tourists, people hawking their wares, drunk partygoers, cyclists, and regular visitors all sharing the streets with taxis and buses.
Since today is the official opening to my stepmom’s new restaurant, I headed towards the bus stop, which was already filled with orange-wearing neighbors and tourists waiting for the bus. We dutifully chatted about the weather, which was awesome–after a week of rain, today was T-shirt-and-ice-cream weather, with rain picking up where it left off tomorrow–until the bus drove past without slowing down. The driver threw up his hands in apology. Orange-clad passengers with Dutch flags painted on their cheeks waved at us through the windows.
“To the trams!” we shouted, figuring we’d see where we ended up and walk from there. We kidnapped a handful of confused tourists and marched towards the other bus stop. On the way there, I changed my mind and swerved towards home, where I climbed onto my bike for the fifty-minute ride into town.
Once arrived, I spent some time at my stepmom’s restaurant, took people’s money when they needed to use the bathrooms, and nibbled on some delicious chicken saté before heading back out to Purchase Junk, as is my duty as a Dutchwoman on Queensday.
For the record, I bought a) ice cream and b) this cute little spool to wind up the cord for my earphones. VICTORY IS MINE.
Cute spool aside, there are a lot of good reasons to dislike Queensday. Criticize the trash people leave behind. The drunken partygoers screwing things up for everyone else. The noise. The damage caused. Criticize the monarchy, the capitalism, the patriotism… I can go on.
But most of the time, I like Queensday. I like people being in a good mood. I like people enjoying themselves and being completely, utterly ridiculous, wearing huge orange clogs and orange dresses and sparkly tiaras. There’s music on every other street corner, people dancing and laughing and starting conversations with total strangers. The streets are packed with people just out to have a good time. Friends will take their boat out for a boat ride through the canals, just putting on their music and basking in the sun. Entire streets will congregate around single cafes.
On Queensday, the city is one big party, and sometimes, there’s nothing better than wandering around and soaking up the atmosphere.