May 4 – Remembrance of the Dead in the Netherlands

Posted May 4, 2015

Most nations have a holiday to honor their fallen soldiers, and the Netherlands are no different. Today many people will gather at the capital city of Amsterdam, at the National Monument on Dam Square, and others will gather for ceremonies in their home towns. Flags are flown at half staff – the symbol for mourning. At 20:00, the entire nation stops for two minutes of silence. Even public transport and all traffic is stopped for those two minutes.

After the two minutes of silence, people often listen to speeches, lay down flowers to remember the dead, or gather together to listen to and sing the national anthem.

This holiday used to commemorate just those who died during World War II, but now it is for all members of the armed forces who died in wars or peacekeeping missions. Tomorrow, May 5, Dutch people celebrate the 1945 liberation of the Netherlands from more than four years of German occupation.

Nether means "low"...

The Netherlands is a small but densely populated European nation that is called “Low Country” (Nether lands) for good reason. About a quarter of the nation actually lies BELOW sea level, another quarter of the country rises up from a few inches to about a yard (one meter) above sea level, and the rest of the nation is a bit higher than that – but the highest ground in the entire nation, called “the Mount of Vaals,” is either just a hill or is just barely a mountain. It's tip is about 1,000 feet (about 320 m) above sea level.

In contrast, the highest point in the U.S. is more than 20,000 feet (more than 6,000 meters) above sea level, and even the U.K. has an actual mountain rising up to 3,560 feet (1,085 meters).

By the way, in case you want to know what the cut-off point between a hill and a mountain is, the U.S. Geological Survey says that there is no official difference between hills and mountains, but in the U.K. geographers historically regarded mountains as hills that are greater than 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level.

How do they do it?

If you are wondering how Dutch people manage to not be constantly flooded in their lower-than-sea-level lands, apparently the dams, sluices, locks, dikes, and storm surge barriers of Delta Works, in the Netherlands, has been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Of course, the Dutch still have more than 1,000 old windmills that drains excess water out of fields. The windmills are also useful in another way – they have become a tourist attraction!

Other tourist attractions are the fields of tulips and other flowers and the charming canals.

Also on this date: 

Greenery Day in Japan 

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