Liberation Day – A Dutch celebration

Freedom. It should be a common thing, but unfortunately current affairs prove that it’s not. That’s why I want to tell you about a very important celebration in the Netherlands called: Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day)! A lot of foreigners know about our national holiday: Kings Day, celebrated on April 27th (formerly Queens Day), and many people come to the Netherlands to celebrate this day with us. The streets are filled with orange clothed people. It’s a great sight!

Liberation Day is celebrated on the 5th of May, and it’s the day where we celebrate our freedom. 

Why is it celebrated on the 5th of May?

Germany’s surrender over the territories of the Netherlands, Schleswig-Holstein and Denmark was signed on May 5th, 1945, and that’s why May 5th was also officially chosen as the day to celebrate Liberation Day. Another important day is Dodenherdenking (Commemoration Day) on May 4th. On this day we commemorate the people that lost their lives during the war. When the clock strikes at 8PM on this day, we are silent for 2 minutes to pay our respects. It’s a very intense, but also beautiful moment. 

I remember the many stories my grandparents told me about the war, because they lived through it. Also at school, around this time we had veterans from the Second World War coming over and sharing their stories with us. In 2015 Paul and I visited Auschwitz, this was an unbelievably impressive and sad experience. There is a plaque in front of the door that says: 

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. 

George Santayana

Very strong words and so true! 

A few pictures of Auschwitz:

History of Liberation Day

Let me tell you a bit more about the history of this day. The very first celebration of Liberation Day did not take place on May 5th, but on August 31st, 1945. It was Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday and also Queen’s Day, but because she wasn’t happy with the fact that Liberation Day was celebrated on her birthday, they moved it to May 5th. This day was officially approved by the Dutch government in 1946. There was one exception: that Liberation Day would not be celebrated if it fell on a Sunday, to respect the Sunday rest. Liberation Day took place annually on May 5th. In 1990 Liberation Day was recognized as an annual national holiday.

Liberation fire and festivals

Since 1948 it has been a tradition to start Liberation Day by lighting the Liberation Fire at midnight. It’s lit by the mayor of Wageningen in front of Hotel de Wereld. Various groups of runners take over the fire and bring it to different parts of the country. This officially opens the 14 liberation festivals, because on Liberation Day there are festivals held in 14 provincial cities, where various artists perform. It’s a unique and very special day for the Dutch people, so if you are in the Netherlands around this time, come and celebrate with us! 

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