About the holiday

Koningsdag or King's Day is a national holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Celebrated on 27 April, the date marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander. When the Dutch monarch is female, the holiday is known as Koninginnedag or Queen's Day.

The holiday was initially observed on 31 August 1885 as Princess's Day, the fifth birthday of Princess Wilhelmina, then heir presumptive to the Dutch throne. On her accession in November 1890 the holiday acquired the name Queen's Day, first celebrated on 31 August 1891. In September 1948, Wilhelmina's daughter Juliana ascended to the throne and the holiday was moved to her birthday, 30 April. The holiday was celebrated on this date from 1949.

Juliana's daughter, Beatrix, retained the celebration on 30 April after she ascended the throne in 1980, though her birthday was on 31 January. Beatrix altered her mother's custom of receiving a floral parade at Soestdijk Palace, instead choosing to visit different Dutch towns each year and join in the festivities with her children.

Queen Beatrix abdicated on Queen's Day 2013, and her son, Willem-Alexander, ascended the throne (the first king since the observance of the national holiday). As a result, the holiday became known as King's Day from 2014 on, and the celebration was moved three days ahead to 27 April, his actual birthday.

King's Day is known for its nationwide vrijmarkt ("free market"), at which the Dutch sell their used items. It is also an opportunity for orange madness, a kind of frenzy named for the national colour.


What do you miss most about home?

I travel back to the Netherlands for a weekend once every two weeks, to see my children and sometimes my wife who works in Joint Force Command Naples, so I can’t say that I miss my family very much. It is even quite relaxing to go back to Lisbon after a busy weekend to be alone for a while. You could say I am enjoying the best of both worlds. I do however miss the colder winters, the change of the seasons and even the rain, especially during dry periods in Portugal.


What do you find rewarding about working in a multinational environment like the JALLC?

First of all, of course, it is interesting to meet new people, especially since they all come from different cultures.  Working in a multinational environment teaches me to not describe things in “better or worse”, but in “different and  other”. It opens the eyes to different solutions to challenges, and makes me aware that people act and respond in their own way depending on their cultural background. This does not mean I change my Dutch ways as that is part of my cultural background, but I don’t expect colleagues to change. I believe different cultures strengthen the way an organization operates if managed well.


What is something unique in Portugal that others may not know?

People in Portugal are generally quite friendly and hospitable, however as soon as some of them take a seat behind the steering wheel, their behaviour changes resulting in an aggressive driving style.


How do you usually celebrate this national day (in Portugal or in your country)?

Sometimes we celebrate King’s Day with colleagues by raising a glass of Orange Bitter (type of alcoholic drink) in honour of our King and share some special food items. This year unfortunately, we have to skip celebrations in Lisbon as we will not be Portugal that day and also my Dutch colleagues in STRIKFORNATO (Naval Striking and Support Force NATO) are not in. I will however be in Naples this year to celebrate King’s Day with my wife Hildegard and her colleagues. As this is my last King’s Day while I am living in Lisbon—as I retire at the end of this year—, I will celebrate next year at home in the more traditional way, by visiting the free markets on the streets.