Koninginnedag-Part Two

Monday was “Queen’s Day” here in the Netherlands. Queen’s day (and Queen’s Night [Koninginnenacht] – the night before) is more like a nation-wide festival van Oranje. We had the day off from work and school so we did what all of the Dutch do, go shopping. The holiday is nothing like your typical President’s Day holiday with sales on mattresses, computers and clothes. No, the traditional shopping experience is the vrijmarkt – free or open market, which means in actuality a garage/car boot sale. People line up on their shopping streets, place their blankets down and sell most anything – but usually junk. Whatever is left over from the sale is left in a pile for people to pick through before the city hauls it off. The kindervrijmarkten or the children’s open markets were what we were off for. Children sell their old toys and clothes and some have the hawkers patter down quite well – “Alles voor fijftig Euro-cents!” or “Een Euro Alstublieft!” This from kids as young as eight or nine. There were also kids selling “cookjes”, “snoepjes”, coffee, playing musical instruments (with the hat out for money) and all other sorts of things. There was a couple of kids in Voorschoten playing an accordion and an acoustic guitar that quite surprised me. It sounded nothing like Tejano, polka or Cajun music!

LittleN took a little time to get used to the crowds but soon was quite the little shopper. She had Mommy’s pockets bulging with coins she saved up from her allowance so she was able to get “My Little Ponies” to her heart’s content. She would walk by the blanket full of toys, take a look and either walk to the next one or would smile to the kid on the blanket and point to whatever she wanted. She also had an eye. She saw something on the other side of the street she wanted ( there are no cars allowed on the street ) , pulled on MrsS’s hand quite strongly until we were at the correct spot and started gesticulating at a snoopy toy. When you are three feet tall you can see things that others cannot.

Last year we only went to one vrijmarkt in Leiden. This time we went to two, Voorschoten and Wassenaar ( we met a family that goes to at least three a year – “This year it’s four we’re going to”, they tell us. ) Next year we might go to Amsterdam’s Vondelpark were the selling is officially reserved for children.

Koninginnedag-Part One

Young BrandoToday (Friday , 27 April) was the Koninginnedag celebration for all kindergarteners at my son’s school. (There are several Dutch in his grade and in the whole school in general. The Americans are first in percentages, then come the Scandinavians [lumped together of course] then come the Dutch with about 20% of the school’s national makeup) It is actually the 40th birthday of Prince Willem-Alexander, the crown prince, but since there is no school Monday, Friday is the day for the school’s celebration. Monday is the real Koninginnedag which is in actually the birthday of the mother of the current queen. Everyone was decked out in orange (oranje?) clothes, hair, ribbons, or what not- it was the World Cup all over again – Hup Holland! My son decided on his orange pants and an orange shirt, and his “fancy hat to make Queen Beatrix happy.” Here he is, Number One Son, trying his best to do a young Marlon Brando imitation. Johnny Strabler anyone?

Krokusvakantie

This time of the year is what the Dutch call the “Krokusvakantie” or the Crocus Vacation. Crocuses are usually the first flowers of late winter and are found everywhere right now. Our backyard has quite a few of them growing amongst the grass; along with that dratted moss(!). Schools are out for the week or so of it – the dates are a little fuzzy as to when it actually begins. It is also Carnival (Crocus colors are Marti Gras/Carnival colors- gold, purple and green) time in the south of Holland, Belgium, Southern Germany, etc. Yesterday, LittleN and I were watching the German ARD TV channel “Das Erste”. On it was a Carnival parade in one of the big southern German cities. They had big floats, including one from a local Lutheran church, and the people were all in historical costume. There were kings and queens, all kinds of 18th Century soldiers, kids as princes and princesses and so on. There were no beads being tossed but plenty of flowers and candy. LittleN wanted to know what this one little girl on a float was throwing. I said candy. LittleN then wanted to know if Zwarte Piet was in the parade. Well, I said, it’s the wrong time of the year. The Pieten (plural of Piet) are all in Spain waiting for the beginning of December to come around.