If you are new to the Netherlands, you might have heard King’s Day plans starting to buzz around. Do you have something orange to wear? Where will you be celebrating? Have you tried an orange tompouce? Which flea markets will you be visiting? Do you have orange face paint?

Your first response to all these questions might be, “Who is the king?” and “Why do I need to wear the most unflattering shade of orange?”. Rest assured, by the end of this article, we will have you ready to wear all the orange you own with confidence.

First Things First – Why “King’s Day”
The short answer is we’re celebrating King Willem-Alexander’s birthday. He was born on April 27th, 1967, which is why Kings Day is celebrated on April 27.

The celebration didn’t start as King’s day. The origin of the day dates back to 1885, on the 31st of August, when it was celebrated for the first time as “Princess Day” in celebration of the 5th birthday of Princess Wilhelmina. When Wilhelmina became queen, the day transitioned into Queens Day, but wasn’t celebrated widely until 1902, when Wilhelmina had recovered from a serious illness and the people of the Netherlands celebrated her on her birthday every following year. The Queen was touched and established Queens Day as a working holiday so that it could be a party for the people.

With the passing of Queen Wilhelmina, the Netherlands got a new queen, Juliana. She stuck to the tradition of celebrating Queens Day on her birthday and the date shifted to her birthday on April 30th., in tribute to her mother (and because the weather was better in April than on her actual birthday in January), she kept the celebration on her mother Queen Juliana’s birthday during her reign.  Under Beatrix’s reign, the royal family began visiting different cities on this day, to meet with the people. The tradition continues to this day and you can watch the coverage of their visits live on TV or via livestreams on NPO 1.

When the current King of the Netherlands became king, the day changed to King’s Day and the date moved to 27 April. If you are wondering if moving the date of the biggest and most internationally renowned Dutch holiday caused chaos for years as excited tourists arrived 3 days too late to the party, then the answer is yes. For years tourists with outdated information would arrive in Amsterdam on April 30, ready to party in a fully orange crowd, only to discover a day like any other. No celebrations, markets or orange to be found in the streets.

What to Expect?
King’s Day is a national holiday in the Netherlands. People flock together and use the opportunity to go out and celebrate the king with their friends. Imagine an orange-themed birthday party with roughly 17 million attendees.

The orange dress code is optional but encouraged. Why orange? The surname of the members of the royal family is ‘van Oranje’ which translates to ‘from Orange’, thus orange is the national color of the Netherlands. There is a long history of the origin of this name which dates back to Willem van Oranje in the sixteenth century.

Aside from the orange dress code, there are various festivities throughout the country. You can expect to find flea markets everywhere. One of the hallmark activities of King’s Day is the “vrijmarkt”, which translates to “free market”. During this time, people are allowed to sell goods on the streets without needing a permit, contributing to a carnival-like atmosphere. Flea markets spring up all over cities and towns, with young and old alike setting up stalls (or chalking off a section of sidewalk) to sell second-hand goods, crafts, food, and more. The perfect treat after browsing flea markets is an orange tompouce. This sweet pastry is actually available all year, but gets an orange make-over to match the theme of the day.

What to do on King’s Day?
The ideal agenda for the day would start with a bit of moseying around your neighborhood browsing the local wares (and quite possibly finding a fair amount of junk), thereafter you will find there are plenty of parties and festivals to attend in every city of the Netherlands. Join in the merriment of an orange crowd, hopefully, enjoy the first few rays of springtime sun, and end the day by raising a glass to King Willem-Alexander on his birthday.