Saturday 29 April 2006

Queen's day - For pomp and bric-a-brac

A Queen and a day
Today marks what is officially known as the Queen’s birthday (Koninginnedag – Queen’s Day) in the  Netherlands.
In fact, it is not the birthday of the current Queen, who was born in the 31st of January 1938 but that of Queen Juliana her mother who abdicated the throne in 1980 and was both on the 30th of April 1909 but died just over 2 years ago.
Being a low country, in the northern hemisphere, it was considered that celebrating the Queen’s birthday should be left in April when the weather is more clement and the atmosphere is much more brighter in the spring.
Then you say, but it is Saturday, the 29th of April, well, we, the Dutch (a term of association and integrated endearment) are a rather peculiar people, or rather we elect the most interesting politicians and endure the machinations of slothful and impeding bureaucrats.
Nothing official but plenty personal
Basically, we have the least number of public holidays in Europe for starters, being a Christian country, Good Friday is not legally a public holiday, but we celebrate Ascension Day and Pentecost which are 40 and 50 days after Easter Sunday respectively.
The next Christian holiday is Christmas and Boxing Day, both known here as First Christmas and Second Christmas days, when booking events, always clearly state which Christmas day you are booking and not many know what Boxing Day is about.
Besides the Queen’s Day, we do not celebrate May Day considering we have had many workers’ revolts and socialist influences, we celebrate May the Fifth every 5 years which is in commemoration of the liberation of the .
The immovable weak end
The most peculiar aspect of our holidays is that all holidays that fall in the weekends, stay within the weekend, unlike other countries were holidays get moved to the next working day of the week.
However, this year, since the public holiday falls on a Sunday which is a day of rest (Christian), it has been moved forward to Saturday, the day before which presumably is another day of rest (Judaism). This is not to say there is anything remotely anti-Semitic about the decision, I would presume the Major of Amsterdam – Job Cohen would have acquiesced without rancour.
Pomp and bric-a-brac
So, unlike the where the Queen’s Birthday is celebrated with pomp and pageantry, in the , everyone is allowed to trade on the pavements without a permit. It could easily be a bric-a-brac-a-plenty day where discards are discarded for cash.
The Queen chooses a city to visit on that day whilst revellers, citizens, tourists, peasants and all, crowd into Amsterdam that it is impossible to do anything decent than get inebriated with Dutch lager or beer and embark on an irresponsible pub-crawl, hopefully picking up a bargain which in your sobriety would show how much of a dork you have been.
Escape from the mob
As for Amsterdammers, we just vacate the city, seeking out some village or camping site to escape the mob; one cannot afford to be in a crowd where a majority roam in wide-eyed exclamation at the sight of mundane and everyday things.
If there are any memories of the Queen’s day, it would be of things too sorry to tell mum anything about.
Meanwhile – Happy Birthday, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Many happy Returns.

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