Queen's, Remberance, and Liberation Days, 2006

Trip Start Apr 15, 2003
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Trip End Sep 01, 2011


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Friday, May 5, 2006

Hi everybody!
It's time, once again, for Queen's Day in the Netherlands. This year it was cool and threatening rain, but we got lucky and only had cool temperatures with the sun making occasional appearances. We had friends visiting from Italy (Serena and Alessandro) for the weekend and some of Melanie's colleagues (Mike and Louise -with whom we've become friends as well) were also in town and spent the day with us.

As usual, the party starts the night before. After dinner we walked around the Jordaan listening to the live bands that were playing on temporary stages in the streets. The main event for Chris, however, is always treasure hunting the next morning. Chris started at 7:30AM, was joined by Louise and Mike at 7:45, and the rest of us hooked up around 9:00. Big purchases of the day included a pair of big fuzzy dice to hang from the car window (pure class!), a heavy cast iron wok, a Chemistry inspired coffee maker (by Bodum), video movies (Jaws, Forest Gump, 4th of July and Nixon) and a pair of WWII German U-boat 7x50 Leitz binoculars with original rubber cover and leather strap (the real prize).

In the afternoon the crowds always get too crazy and we start to wear down, so it's back to the house to sell our own goods. The biggest money maker was beer, which Chris sold aggressively by singling out people as they walked by and shouting "bierje?" (Dutch for beer?). In fact, Melanie had to cut off the sales in order to ensure there would be enough left for our own party!



The biggest Q-Day entertainment for us is always watching the boats at the intersection of the two canals in front of our house. By 3:30 everybody on the boats is completely drunk. The long tour boats are still running and trying to make a tight turn at the intersection and, when combine with the large and small party boats it is simply total chaos. It is fun to watch from the window as the captains maneuver their boats through this near-gridlock. It is amazing that nobody falls into the canal or gets hurt.

Sunday was a nice relaxing day with our Italian friends. We started with a bike ride through the quiet, trash-filled streets of Amsterdam and ended with a boat ride through the canals and dinner at our favorite brown cafe. Although the city does a pretty good job of cleaning up after Q-Day, it takes time and by 10:00 the main party square, the Leidseplein, was still a stinky, trash-filled mess.

Queen's Day continues to be one of our favorite Dutch traditions. It is simply a fun day with lots of good spirit and, for Chris, lots of good bargains! What more could we ask for?

May 4th and 5th are also Holidays in the Netherlands to commemorate the Second World War and celebrate the country's liberation from five years of occupation. Unlike most countries, the Netherlands sets aside two days to mark these events. The first is Rememberance Day, a day of solemn commemoration for those that died; the second, Liberation Day, is a day of public rejoicing. After a day of looking back at the past, the nation turns its hopes to the future. On 4 and 5 May the Netherlands affirms its pledge to provide a haven for all its citizens.

Since the end of the Second World War, the Dutch have observed 4 May as a day of reflection, a day to honor the victims of war. Remembrance Day commemorates the civilians and members of the armed forces who lost their lives in the Second World War. Unlike most countries, the Netherlands does not mark the occasion with large military parades. People all over the country gather at war memorials in their own communities, and at the stroke of eight the entire country observes a two-minute silence. The silence is observed everywhere - in restaurants, at the fitness center, on the streets. We were on the terrace in back of our house at 7:45 when all the church bells began to ring. At 8pm, all traffic and noise stopped.

Remembrance Day is a tribute to all Dutch victims of war. Special honor is paid to civilians and to members of the armed forces who fell in the Second World War, and to all Dutch nationals who have lost their lives since, in other wars or in peacekeeping operations. Three special wreaths are placed for civilians who died in Europe in 1940-1945: one for members of the Resistance, one for victims of persecution, and one for civilian casualties. A separate wreath is laid for those who fell in Asia, and another for the servicemen and merchant marine crews who gave their lives in the line of duty.



The close of the Remembrance Day ceremony signals the start of Liberation Day festivities commemorating Germany's capitulation on 5 May 1945. War veterans gather in Wageningen, where the historic documents were signed, and parade through the city in celebration of the anniversary of liberty regained. May 5 is a national holiday. The solemnity of Remembrance Day gives way to celebration - although not the sort seen on Queen's Day!

The Dutch use these two days to honor the past as well as to celebrate and contemplate freedom and democracy enjoyed today. So in the course of the week, there have been three days which are important to the Dutch.


Melanie and Chris

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