Today is the queen's birthday. The Dutch people refer to this yearly event as Koninginnedag and it is a national holiday. Big deal? Yes, for all the Dutch folks in this small country, it is a very big deal. Queen Beatrix is coming, she's coming! People dress up in orange, put on their finest clothes, and wear orange hats of various shapes and sizes. This is hard to imagine for a boring American like myself who grew up completely oblivious of the wonderful world of the royal family. Every year it never ceases to amaze me. The Royal Family walks through a specially chosen town (this year it was Meppel) and wave endlessly to the droves of people streaming along the walkway. Waving, smiling, shaking multiple hands, kissing babies, that kind of thing. The Queen always has this giant bizarre-looking hat on, for she is famous for her collection of giant hats, wearing two or three different hats a day and never again the same hat. She stands patiently listening to the many children singing songs, people doing folk dances, and the local citizens displaying the various wares which are famous for the region (usually some cheese, silver trinkets, a giant cake from the bakery with the pictures of the royal family on top of it). Long live the Queen! The ironic fact of the whole affair is that today is "not" really the Queen's birthday. It is her mother's birthday (the former Queen). Since Queen Beatrix's birthday is in the middle of winter when it can get extremely cold, and traditionally the celebrations should take place during the mild and sunny climate of Spring, it was decided to retain the original date of Koninginnedag for the sake of better more bearable weather and enjoyment. Funny how Queen Beatrix still walks around majestically as if it is her birthday. She smiles at all the children who sing her a hearty happy birthday song, sincerely believing so much that it is this fine women's real birthday today. After I saw this episode on the television (yes, my Dutch wife and my four half-Dutch kids were glued to the boob-tube the whole time), I escaped into the countryside with the usual thirty-minute jog. Tomorrow I will have to work again.
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