Dutch traditions: 4 and 5 May
So what are we celebrating on 4 and 5 May? Actually, "celebrating" is a misnomer: 4 May is for commemoration, and only 5 May is for celebrations.
4 May is dodenherdenking, remembrance of the dead. Traditionally, it was the day we commemorated those who perished in World War II - soldiers, resistance members and civilians. Nowadays, for most people it is still the remembrance of World War II victims, but officially we commemorate "all, civilians and members of the armed forces, who have died in the Kingdom of the Netherlands or anywhere in the world, since the outbreak of World War II, in war situations or peace keeping missions". That includes, for example, Dutch soldiers who recently lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The flags hang half-staff on 4 May. Around 8 p.m., many towns have some kind of commemoration, often at a local monument. The main commemoration event is at the National Monument in Amsterdam. A few minutes before 8 p.m., the Queen will lay down a wreath at the National Monument. This is followed at 8 p.m. sharp by two minutes of silence in honour of those we commemorate. After the two minutes silence and the national anthem, members of the cabinet, representatives of the military, veterans, resistance movements and other groups will lay wreaths or flowers. Later, members of the public can do the same.
The two minutes silence at 8 p.m. is observed nationwide. Public transport stops, television and radio stations are silent, shops are closed this evening, many restaurants and bars are either closed or don't serve for two minutes.
4 May is followed by 5 May, Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day). On this day we celebrate the liberation from the occupation by Nazi Germany (1940-1945). It is celebrated every year, but a national holiday only once every five years. As Bevrijdingsdag is not a holiday, but is a school holiday, there are many events aimed at children on this day. Another popular bevrijdingsdag outing is a visit to one of the many music festivals that are held this day.
For more information, see the official website 4 en 5 mei (4 and 5 May, website is in Dutch).
Labels: Dutch traditions