The Biggest Birthday Party of the Year

It was a big weekend for queens. I watched the royal wedding on Friday online, and then Saturday was Queen’s Day in the Netherlands.

Queen’s Day, or Koninginnedag, is the celebration of the queen’s birthday. The current queen is Queen Beatrix, but the holiday is actually on (April 30) the birthday of Beatrix’s mother, Queen Juliana. Beatrix was content to leave the birthday where it stood, because her birthday’s in January and not conducive to street parties.

And what does the queen want for her birthday? Yard sales.  It’s called the vrijmarkt, the free market, and it’s the only day of the year yard sales are legal here. It’s a big tax-free day, and individuals and businesses all put out sidewalk-sale tables. Early in the morning the streets line with blankets and tables as people carve out their spots. We took a walk through Delft around 10 AM, and it was pleasantly busy. By 1 PM, it was too crowded to move through the streets. We saw the usual garage-sale hodge-podge: unwanted paperbacks, used clothing, miles and miles of children’s toys, VHS tapes, ambiguous crockery.

But you don’t just have the option to sell your used items. You can also sell food—we saw people selling homemade baked goods, sushi, and grilled sausages. Or you can perform using a talent, and put out a box for donations. This was mostly being done by children, and it was by and large adorable. Violins, dancing, yo-yo tricks… We saw it all.

And of course I’m forgetting the obvious: you must wear orange. Because the true meaning of Queen’s Day is a celebration of unity and togetherness among the Dutch people, and the orange craze contributes to the solidarity. I’m told there’s even a word for it: oranjegekte. I’m proud to say we contributed.

As the day goes on, the kegs roll out and the children go home and a lot of partying ensues. Many people get started the night before, on Koninginnenacht, especially in the bigger cities. We took a walk around Delft around 10 PM and the yard sales were gone. The people who were still in the streets were a little (to a lot) tipsy. And there was trash everywhere! Mostly plastic beer cups, with some paper and the rogue glass bottle mixed in.

I know there’s a crazy blur of a bike rider moving through this picture, but check out the ground scene. Right before I took this, a taxi was trying to get through this area. The driver rolled down his window and asked us to move a Heineken keg out of the way for him (it was just laying in the path). So we rolled it away and the guy attempted to make a turn there. Immediately there was a loud pop and hissing and his tire punctured. There was broken glass everywhere. We picked our way home pretty carefully in our sandals. All of this in little Delft, we thought. I can’t even fathom what Amsterdam must have been like.


1 Comment

Filed under Our Dutch Adventure

One response to “The Biggest Birthday Party of the Year

  1. Lianne

    Ah-hah! Now I understand Vrijdag 🙂

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