Queen’s Day Celebrations
For one day only during the first week in April, the Dutch party all day and all night to help the Queen celebrate her birthday. This isn’t actually Queen Beatrix’s birthday, however, it is her mothers. Hers takes place in January which is a little cold for outdoor festivities. In the beginning all that the day involved was raising the national flag, eating orange cake and sipping a special drink but today things are a little different. In recent decades celebrations have exploded into one mass nationwide party which sees young and old, locals and visitors come together to join in the numerous events taking place. A host of street parades, craft shows, live theatre, music and dance and fireworks ensure that there something for everyone and for members of the gay community there are special celebrations for those who want them. These take place around the Homomonument and Reguliersdwaarsstraat in Amsterdam.
Not many of you out there will know this but the Netherlands is home to the oldest pop festival in Europe and Pinkpop is it. Taking place over the first weekend in June, the festival first took place in 1970 and has gone from strength to strength in the decades which have elapsed since its inception. Now attracting as many as sixty thousand revellers who come to watch bands from all over the world perform on Saturday, Sunday and Monday this is certainly not an event for the moralistic among you. Beer is consumed as if it was water, joints smoked as if they were normal cigarettes and showers completely unheard of. If you can handle this blatant disregard for personal health and hygiene, however, you are guaranteed the experience of a lifetime.
North Sea Jazz Festival, The Hague
If jazz is your thing then this is one event you certainly don’t want to miss. Taking place over three days in mid July every year, the North Sea Jazz Festival is approaching its thirtieth anniversary making it one of the oldest jazz festivals in the world. With over two hundred performances featuring musicians from all over the world playing a unique blend of jazz, blues and hip hop this is jazz at its very best and the event is renowned as being one of the top jazz festivals in the world. As well as the musicians, however, a host of internationally acclaimed singers also grace the twenty or so stages adding even more attraction for the thousands who flock to The Hague for the event every year.
While the Dutch city of Maastricht might not be best known for its Carnival, this is certainly not a valid reason to doubt its importance and its entertainment value. As is customary with carnivals all over the world the build up to the big event begins weeks in advance and culminates with a huge three day festival on the Sunday, Monday and Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. Thousands of people in full costume sing, dance and jump their way through the streets and the bars of the city causing general mayhem wherever the go. One of the highlights of the festivities is the performances by the ‘zaate herremeniekes’, unique bands whose motto is ‘not too nice but definitely loud’. In fact, this pretty much sums up the whole carnival. If you’re looking for a relaxing break forget Maastricht for these three days because it’s just not going to happen. If you’re looking for an unforgettable party, however, then this is just the place.
Flower Parade, Aalasmeer, Amstelveen & Amsterdam
Taking place between August 30th and September 2nd ever year the parade incorporates over a million and half flowers which adorn twenty enormous floats and thirty cars. The three-kilometre ribbon of flowers makes its way from Aalsmeer to Amsterdam passing through Amstelveen on the way. If you want to experience the true essence of the parade you should join from the very start. At 4.00pm on the first day the floats are prepared in the Aalasmeer Flower Auction centre but the whole thing is so much more than simple flower arranging. The atmosphere is electric with live music, plenty of booze and thousands of revellers. Officially opened on the second day amid more mayhem the parade leaves Aalasmeer on the third day where it passes through Amstelveen and heads on to Amsterdam. And if the celebrations at the start of the parade are worth catching, you can imagine the festivities which take place at the end. A fascinating traditional event, the flower parade is one you don’t want to miss.