Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The 4th and 5th of May

The 4th and 5th of May are Dodenherdenking (Remembrance Day) and Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) here in the Netherlands. I thought it was past time for me to write an article about this, but the weather ended up being so stormy that I didn't go out after all so I don't have any photos from this year. Instead, I'll just tell you what it's all about with the promise to get some good pictures next year.

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.
Rotterdam 2013

Rotterdam 2013
After this solemn remembrance, the 5th of May is time to celebrate freedom! The Liberation flame is lit at midnight, and from this flame torches are lit and carried throughout the rest of the country. That day, people all over the Netherlands enjoy outdoor concerts in commemoration of Holland's liberation on May 5th, 1945 by Canadian and other Allied forces. Though there are events held each year, it is only an official holiday every 5 years. Large cities such as Rotterdam host huge festivals with popular musicians, while smaller communities organize their own musical performances, local history displays, and fireworks.

No comments:

Post a Comment