Koningsdag 27 April 202320 April 2023
At the end of April each year the Netherlands ramps up its usual love of all things “oranje” and cities as well as people across the country are covered in orange decoration – called Oranjegekte (orange craze) or Oranjekoorts (orange fever). Why? In celebration of Koningsdag (king’s day). Koningsdag as we know it today originates from Prinsessendag (princess’ day) – the celebration of the then Prinses Wilhelmina’s birthday, who was born on 31 August 1880.
Liberal politicians had thought that the Netherlands needed a national holiday, with the monarchy as the binding factor. Whether people were from Limburg or Friesland, Catholic or Protestant, it should not make much difference. People should feel Dutch.
On 31 August 1885, the first Prinsessendag was celebrated in the Netherlands on the occasion of Prinses Wilhelmina's fifth birthday. After the death of King Willem III on 23 November 1890, Wilhelmina became Koningin, under the regency of her mother Koningin Emma. Prinsessendag then became Koninginnedag. In 1891, the first real Koninginnedag was celebrated in the Netherlands. Koningin Wilhelmina and her family did not attend the Koninginnedag celebrations. In those years, Koninginnedag was also the last day of the school holidays, which meant that it quickly became a day of celebration for children.
In September 1948, Koningin Juliana succeeded her mother. Like Koningin Wilhelmina, she celebrated Koninginnedag on her own birthday, 30 April, for the first time in 1949. Koningin Juliana and her family took part in a parade on the steps of Soestdijk Palace. Many Dutch people walked in a mile-long line along the steps and gave the Koninklijke Familie (royal family) flowers and gifts. This flower parade could be seen on television from the mid-1950s onwards. Under Koningin Juliana, Koninginnedag became an official holiday and the celebrations developed into a national holiday dedicated to solidarity.
Upon taking office as Koningin, Koningin Beatrix decided, out of respect for her mother, to continue celebrating Koninginnedag on 30 April. She chose not to let people come to her, but to go to the people herself. A practical consideration for this date was that the activities that were inextricably linked to this day usually took place outdoors and therefore benefited from a good chance of weather conditions that lent themselves to this. Together with other members of the Koninklijke Familie, she visited one or two towns in the Netherlands each year to celebrate Koninginnedag.
Koninginnedag became Koningsdag
In 2013, the Koningin passed the baton to her son Willem-Alexander and in 2014 Koninginnedag became Koningsdag and moved to Willem-Alexander’s actual birthday, 27 April.