April 30, 2010

Queen's Day (Koninginnedag)

the Netherlands, Aruba, Bonaire, Curacau, Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius

For two generations, Queen's Day was celebrated on the birthday of the queen of the Netherlands. However, the current monarch, Queen Beatrix, decided that her birthday, at the end of January, would be too cold for a nationwide celebration. She kept the day on her mother's birthday—April 30—which also happens to be the date on which Queen Beatrix was crowned. (So it is an anniversary-of-coronation day rather than an anniversary-of-birth day.)

The day is known for the “freemarket”—everybody is allowed to sell stuff on the streets—and also for the “orange craze”—lots of people wear bright orange to honor the royal family, which is called the House of Orange—Nassau. 

(Some people paint their faces and hair orange, too!)

There are also children's games and musical concerts. Apparently, this is one of the largest holidays on the Dutch calendar.

Some photos of Queen's Day can be found here. (Notice the color orange!)

Aside from the Netherlands, this holiday is celebrated on the Caribbean Islands associated with the Netherlands. Let's look at one of them:


This island is located just off the coast of Venezuela. The first people to live on the island
belonged to an Arawak Amerindian tribe, but in the 1500s it was colonized by Spain. Because the island is very dry, no plantations were created there, so the island was spared any association with slavery. In 1636, Aruba began to be ruled by the Dutch. Starting in 1933, Aruba applied to the Dutch government be given independence, but World War II interrupted the process, and the island became first a British and then a United States “protectorate.” Finally, in 1986, Aruba was granted independence from the Netherlands, although it remains a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

This complicated history made me ask, “What language is used in Aruba?” The answer is...umm...complicated!

The most spoken lan
guage on the island is Papiamento, a mixture language that has words from Dutch, English, French, many different African dialects, and most importantly, from Portuguese and Spanish. The official language of the island nation is Dutch. Many of the people speak Spanish, and because of tourism many people also speak at least some English.

Aruba is dry and warm and sunny. There are apparently no rivers on the island! Tourism is one of the most important parts of the economy.

  • Look at the sightseeing attractions of Aruba. (Click each one to see a larger photo and other pictures of that attraction.)
  • Some of the biggest attractions are the beautiful beaches. See them here.

This is a drawing by Dutch
artist M.C. Escher.
Learn about the Netherlands

Much of this country is very low
actually lower sea level!—and the Dutch rely on canals and a system of dikes to keep the land from flooding. The Netherlands is known for windmills, tulips, wooden shoes, and ice skating, including speed skating. Its national color is (can you remember? I already mentioned this!) orange.
  • Here are some coloring pages that feature some of these things.

Learn about Dutch Art
  • Some of the most famous artists in the world come from the Netherlands. Right off the bat, I thought of Rembrandt, Johannes Vermeer, Vincent Van Gogh, and M.C. Escher. Here are some coloring pages (online or print-and-color) from Dutch artists. Plus, don't miss the activity about Mondrian's art, found here.

  • Here's a really fun website that takes off from paintings by Dutch artists. It is a Dutch house. Open a door, choose a room, and click around and explore. I made tiles, colored the floor, and designed plates...plus much more!

  • Here is a kid-friendly bio of Vermeer. Here is one of his famous paintings in jigsaw puzzle form, and here is an art lesson inspired by him.
Did you know...?

The language of the Netherlands is called Dutch in English, but it is called Nederlands in the language itself. “Neder” is like the English “nether,” which means “low” or “down” (and remember, the land of the Dutch is so low, it's mostly below sea level!) “Land” means the same thing in both Dutch and English.

Neder = Nether... Land = Land...
What's going on? Why are Dutch and English so similar?

Actually, Dutch and English, along with German, are all part of one language family. (That doesn't mean that Dutch is super easy for English-speakers to learn, though.)

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