The 27th of April is one of the most important dates in the Dutch calendar as the country celebrates its monarchy in the most spectacular way. The national holiday is held on King Willem-Alexander’s birthday and was originally devised to promote national unity by honouring the Dutch royal family. Every year, over a million people visit Amsterdam, the country’s capital, and turn the city into one major carnival spilling into the streets and onto the canals. This year, however, the Netherlands has been responsible in cancelling the large gathering, but we chatted to Wouter Vermeulen, General Manager Southern Africa – Air France KLM, who shares 7 things you may not have known about the celebration.

King’s Day Is Celebrated On The King’s Birthday

In a bid to honour the Dutch royal family, King’s Day marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander on 27 April. The day is treated like a public holiday. Most of the country gets off work and is invited to celebrate the life of their monarch. The only time Kings Day is not celebrated on 27 April is if it falls on a Sunday. The celebrations are then moved up by a day to 26 April.

It Used To Be Called Queen’s Day.

As the leader of the Dutch monarchy changes, so does the date and potential name of the holiday. Prior to Willem-Alexander’s accession to the throne in 2013, King’s Day was called Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag), and was held on 30 April in honour of the former monarch Queen Beatrix. Funnily enough, Queen’s Day was not held on Queen Beatrix’s birthday, but her mother’s. Queen Beatrix decided to keep Queen’s Day on 30 April as a tribute to her mother.

King Willem-Alexander Is The First King To Be Celebrated

Queen Beatrix famously abdicated the throne on Queen’s Day back in 2013 and her son Willem-Alexander subsequently became king. Willem-Alexander is the first male monarch of the Netherlands in 123 years and, therefore, is the first king to be celebrated. Fun fact: King Willem-Alexander is a qualified pilot who sometimes pilots KLM passenger flights!

The Celebration Is An Age-Old Tradition

The Dutch have been celebrating the birthdays of monarchs for over a century. In fact, the first Prinsessedag or Princess’s Day, was held on 31 August 1885 which marked the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina. On her accession in November 1890, the holiday acquired the name Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day. That was first celebrated on 31 August 1891 and the holiday was subsequently modified to celebrate those at the top of the monarchy.

Everyone Wears Orange

Orange has always played a pivotal role in the Dutch heritage and on King’s Day, cities around the country are flooded in a sea of people wearing orange as a show of pride for the Dutch royal family – the House of Orange-Nassau. It’s not uncommon to see people don orange wigs or face paint while still being covered in orange from head to toe.

Food Plays A Major Role In The Celebrations

Like most cultures, food plays an important role in the King’s Day celebrations. Many food vendors line the streets and squares of Amsterdam serving a variety of sweet and savoury snacks to keep party goers fed throughout the day. However, there is one dish that sees a massive 600% increase in sales on this day – tompouce. Tompouce is a sweet pastry loaded with cream which is often decorated with orange icing on the day and has fast become a staple at any King’s Day celebration.

Amsterdam Is Filled With People

King’s Day is one of the biggest days in the Dutch calendar and, therefore, Amsterdam sees a flurry of tourists and citizens from around the world descending on the capital to celebrate. In fact, Amsterdam’s population on King’s Day is twice that of any other day. This is why it is important to not be in a hurry and simply go with the flow as every street, canal, balcony and terrace is filled to the brim with orange-wearing revellers.

Kings Day is really one of the most incredible festivals in the world and is well worth adding to your 2021 travel bucket list!

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