We explain a brief history and significance of Remembrance Day and Liberation Day in the Netherlands, which fall every year on May 4 and 5.
May is really a significant month in the Dutch calendar. Merely a week after the nation celebrates King’s Day (Koningsdag), it turns its focus on yesteryear; specifically, the end of Nazi Germany’s occupation during World War II. This milestone in history is first marked by Remembrance Day on May 4 after which Liberation Day on May 5.
Due towards the unfortunate situation regarding COVID-19, all major public events in the Netherlands have been canceled until September 1. However, you can still commemorate Remembrance Day with the 'Flowers for May 4' initiative. Read on for more information relating to this.
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Remembrance Day (May 4)
For the Netherlands, Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) is a vital date to understand. Across the country, people pay homage towards the fallen and those who fought and sacrificed their lives during WWII; in addition to all other wars. Including the 7,900 soldiers, 88,900 civilians, and 106,000 Jewish compatriots who perished during the five years of WWII.
Royal memorial meeting at Dam Square
Traditionally, on the evening of four May, King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima present at the memorial meeting in De Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam. Afterward, the king and the queen lay the very first memorial wreath around the National Monument at De Dam where crowds of people gather.
However, because of COVID-19 measures, there will be no crowds at Dam Square this year. Instead, the king and queen will lay a wreath in the existence of prime minister Mark Rutte and Amsterdam mayor Femke Halsema. The king will then deliver a televised speech for an empty Dam.
Other commemoration ceremonies
Local commemoration ceremonies occur in virtually every town and city across the Netherlands. A unique ceremony can also be held on Dam Square in Amsterdam in the existence of the head of state as well as other representatives of both the Council of Ministers of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and also the Dutch Parliament. Over 20,000 people attend this event and at 18:00, the flag is hung at half-mast. The King lays a wreath right before the country falls silent for two minutes at 20:00.
A respected milestone in Dutch history
Remembrance Day remains an essential and respected milestone in Dutch history. Actually, an annual survey on Dutch issues in 2020 revealed that around 80% of citizens play in the two-minute silence and follow the Remembrance Day ceremony on television or radio. It is also a period for national Dutch pride, reflection, and feeling 'a strong national bond'.
Special celebrations for 2020
This year it has been 75 years since the atrocities of WWII took place and also the nation does not wish to allow the commemoration go unmarked. To avoid multiplication of the COVID-19 virus within the Netherlands, this year’s commemoration will, therefore, take place in an adapted form.
The ‘Flowers for May 4’ initiative
Together with Tikkie, the nation's Committee 4 and 5 May makes it possible to virtually lay a flower one of the 3,900 monuments throughout the country. In this manner, everyone can honor the memory of war victims in the region, without visiting a monument.
The ‘Flowers for May 4’ initiative enables you to purchase a couple of tulips for 4.50 EUR while using Tikkie app. All donated tulips will be placed at many war memorials across the country on May 4 and proceeds will go to the organic floriculture sector. You can also donate through the official website.
Virtual Remembrance Trip to Ceramplein
As no physical meeting can take place at Ceramplein in Amsterdam on May 4, an online commemoration video will be authored by Groot Oost TV on YouTube. It will likewise be distributed through various social networking channels. The recording will have a short film called Being different, about the plight of the Jewish neighbors during the occupation. It will also include a piece of music by Zakery Beacher and Erik van de Langkruis; along with a film with messages of peace spoken by representatives of numerous local communities.
Special Na de Dam broadcast
Due to the COVID-19 restrictions, Theater Na de Dam, International Theater Amsterdam (ITA), and NOS have organized a special broadcast that'll be televised on May 4 at 18.45, on NPO1. Singers, actors, poets, and comedians will be performing from a clear International Theater Amsterdam following the commemoration in Dam Square.
Among the lineup are Douwe Bob, Claudia de Breij, Michelle David, Herman van Veen, Wende Snijders, and actors in the ITA Ensemble. Some artists will even perform from their own living room – to yours.
Liberation Day (May 5)
On the very next day, May 5, the whole country celebrates Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag). For the Dutch, this very day signifies no more The second world war when German General Blaskowitz signed the surrender of the Nazi occupational forces within the Netherlands in Hotel De Wereld in Wageningen.
The nation was largely liberated by the First Canadian Army; this consisted of Canadian, British, Polish, American, Belgian, Dutch, and Czechoslovakian troops, as well as in certain parts, the British Second Army.
The Liberation Flame
Liberation Day is a colorful fête where the Dutch celebrate freedom and democracy everywhere. The festivities traditionally start at nighttime on May 4; when a torch is lit in Wageningen, where the capitulation documents were signed. A group of just one,300 runners then carry it in relay with other fires all over the country.
This Liberation Flame then travels to 200 different municipalities within the Netherlands. In the hours such as the following, a colorful selection of events happens across the Netherlands. The Prime Minister traditionally launches these celebrations in a different province every year.
A highlight of the celebrations may be the Liberation Festivals which occur from coast to coast. There were 14 locations in 2020; including Amsterdam, Brabant, Den Haag, Drenthe, Flevoland, Frysl^an, Gelderland, Groningen, Haarlem, Limburg, Overijssel, Utrecht, Zeeland, and Zuid-Holland.
The festivals feature extensive musical programs and big-name acts that report towards the theme of freedom. Dutch bands, international musicians, and top DJs take to the stage to perform to thousands and thousands of spectators. Probably the most popular festivals are the Liberation Pop Festival in Haarlem and the Liberation Day Festival in Wageningen. Many revelers also flock to Amsterdam's Museumplein and Den Haag's Malieveld to delight in the day's music and festivities.
Parades along with other local celebrations
Other than music festivals, each city includes a slew of other Bevrijdingsdag events up their sleeves. Included in this are military parades, debates, street theater performances, festival markets, guided tours, film screenings, and even speed dating events. In a variety of areas of Amsterdam, locals will also get together for street dinners. They bring tables outside and have dinner using their neighbors. Several festivals and parades of veterans also take place all over the Netherlands in honor of Liberation Day. These often give visitors the chance to talk to veterans about their stories and war experiences.
You can click on the state Liberation Day website for an entire program of events happening around the country.