What would possess perfectly respectable, mature Americans to don outlandish orange clothes and wigs, drink beer, and dance in the streets during their Netherlands river cruise? Why, King’s Day, of course, the Dutch national holiday that travelers aboard our Waterways of Holland & Belgium river cruise celebrated on April 27, 2014.
The first King’s Day in 128 years
This holiday originated in 1885 as Queen’s Day to honor Queen Wilhemina. It has taken place every year since on the reigning monarch’s birthday, and this year (with the recent inauguration of King Willem-Alexander) marks the first time in 128 years that a Dutch male has sat on the throne. Vantage travelers on our Netherlands river cruise aboard the ms River Splendor were in Holland during the event, and with the help of Cruise Director Erna Hoek, were all too happy to join the fun.
Orange madness takes over!
The holiday is no sedate affair. Rather, thousands of people teem onto the streets and canals for giant block parties, colorful flotillas, parades, flea markets, non-stop music, food, and more. Oranjegekte or “orange madness” takes over the whole country: everyone (including pets!) wears orange – the national color – accented with red, white, and blue (the colors of the Dutch flag.) We’re not just taking about orange shirts, but dyed hair and wigs, crazy hats, face paint, and even orange-colored drinks to accessorize the look (and feel) of the festivities. And yes, since it was a tulip time cruise, there were plenty of orange bulbs to be seen, too.
Vantage travelers join the fun
Erna and the River Splendor crew decorated the ship accordingly and also encouraged travelers on our Netherlands river cruise to “get out their orange.” During a visit to Arnhem travelers stopped to pick up their party gear, so by the time they arrived in Hoorn, everyone was prepared. According to Erna, the travelers were quite amazed and delighted to see the normally conservative Dutch of all ages partying “like crazy. The weather helped a lot too. And even our tea time onboard that afternoon had a Dutch theme, with pastries in red, white and blue, the colors of the Dutch Flag, as well as orange, our national color.” Among the traditions observed on this day are countrywide vrijmarkt, or flea markets, where people sell second-hand items on the streets. Even children get in on the act, selling used toys, and with shoppers are happy to have a day free of the VAT. But the day is not really a commercial occasion, or even a statement about the popularity of the monarchy: it’s about community, good cheer, and good will – things our Netherlands river cruise travelers are always in the mood to celebrate.