Observance of these two days began after World War II. Remembrance Day was set aside to remember all the victims of war, at first focusing on the Second World War but growing to encompass all victims in the subsequent decades. While various ceremonies take place around the country, the biggest one occurs in the evening in Amsterdam's Dam Square. A large crowd gathers around the square, and if you aren't there in person there's a good chance you are watching it on television.
|Dam Square on a normal day.|
The ceremony is centered around the National Monument, a towering white pillar that was constructed in the 1950s to remember WWII. Within the monument are urns filled with soil gathered from execution grounds in each of the Dutch provinces. It is here that the King and Queen start the ceremony by laying flowered wreaths. At 8 PM, Dam Square, along with the rest of the Netherlands, falls silent for 2 minutes. Even trains, planes, and other traffic are scheduled so their departures/arrivals do not interrupt these 2 minutes.
The moment of silence is broken by Wilhelmus, the Dutch national anthem. The ceremony moves forward with a student reading his or her poem written in honor of the event. More wreaths are laid by veterans, representatives of the armed forces, and finally government officials. Each wreath represents different groups of people who have been victims of war and violence, both soldiers and civilians. The last flowers are left by a long line of local school kids who file around the pillar.