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Saturday, April 29, 2006

everything Dutch you never wanted to know, Part I

While working on Plant Sale stuff -what else?- I am in the 2nds office, listening to the Dutch "news- and sportsradio Radio 1". I had forgotten, but today it is Queen's Day, the formal celebration of our Queen's b-day. Well, officially it is April 30th, but since that will be on a Sunday and the Royal family has a bit of a reputation of being religious in the best Dutch Calvinist sense, the celebration of Queen's Day moved away from the Lord's Day.
In the old days, the days when mama grew up and watched TV all day and witnessed the celebrations, the Queen received her people on the steps of her palace. For real! The Queen, Juliana in those days, positioned herself and her family on the platform to which the truly palatial steps led and waved to throngs of Dutch walking by. Deputies of the people walked up those stairs to offer the Majesty a present, from knitted sweaters to traditional cakes and embroidered handkerchiefs. Models of Royal palaces seemed to be popular as present too. Of course the deputies walked backwards down the stairs, for just imagine turning your back to the Queen!!! And this literally for hours on end, live on TV!
The "new" Queen Beatrix (she had her 25th anniversary as Queen last year, but to me she will always be the new, substitue queen) made major changes in the way Queen's Day was celebrated. She did stick to the date of April 30th, which was the actual b-day of her mother Juliana. But other than that nothing remained the same. She started the new tradition of the Royal family visiting the celebrations in 2 cities, towns or villages per Queen's Day, again broadcasted on national TV.
It does make me smile to watch these celebrations, for they truly show the Netherlands in their most Dutch version. It's almost like watching a Holland that in reality doesn't exist anymore. What do these celebrations look like? Well, the Royal family, with up to 20+ members (the Queen, her 3 sons and their wives, her sister, brother-in-law and their 4 sons, plus their wives, and all the kids which pop up from this princely generation) and start a walk past rather silly events like "bag-hopping" (step into a big bag and hop as fast as you can to a finish), "cake-biting" (slices of traditional cake hang from a string and try and take bites without using your hands), "rope-pulling" (two teams pull on a rope and try to pull the opposing team over a line) and what not. Again, its like watching a Holland which doesn't exist anymore. In between the events choirs sing songs for the royal family, also of a rather cheesy character.
At the end of the walk there's always a "balcony-scene", during which the Royal family shows itself on some high position (mostly the balcony of the local town-hall), to listen to speeches, songs and basically wave and smile. Highlight is always the royal thank-you speech, and I must admit that the Majesty has become much better at those, for nowadays she can make it sound like she actually means it! And then the Royal crowd departs, leaving the people behind all warm and happy.
Needless to say the topic of the day is always the clothes of the Queen and princesses. About the Queen we can be pretty short: for years already she always looks like a Sherman tank. Big helmet hair, square shoulders (she wore those even before the 80s and never stopped wearing them!) and hats the size of China. Hardly fasionable, but definitely a very recognizeable profile. The princesses' clothes can be much more exiting, I vividly remember the discussions 2 years ago when princess Maxima (I kid you not, she's Argentine...), the wife of the Crown-Prince, wore denim. Scandalous, people felt. Awesome, others thought. And so much fun in the media all day long!
If you are interested in these typically Dutch experiences, you may actually consider visiting Amsterdam on April 30th. The celebrations there are famous or notorious, depending on what you like. Massive concerts on the city's largest square, a huge free market along the main canals, and literally hundreds of thousands people walking around. And everywhere orange, orange, orange, like mama's infamous sweater. The Royal house is the House of Orange-Nassau, hence the national color. Watch a soccermatch with the Dutch national team and you'll see what the deal is. Or ask Stephen, he knows! Or you could check (literally ""!) and see the first photos posted. And guess what; they modernized the "cake-biting"!! They turned it virtual!!!!!

FYI, almost 80% of the Dutch population is staunchly royalist, so these celebrations really work!

there, part 1 of everything Dutch you never wanted to know. And let's be honest: did you EVER want to know about all this???;)! Smooch, xHdT

posted by hank da tank @ 1:47 PM


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