It’s May 5th today, a day of celebration in the Netherlands. We celebrate our liberation from the German occupation in 1945, that was a result of the 2nd World War.
This day also marks the end of a period where the Dutch become very active with their flag. Several important events that the Dutch raise the flag for are fairly close together.
It all starts on the King’s birthday, which was celebrated on April 26th this year (because the 27th was a Sunday), but is normally on April 27th. So, there’s an exception right at the start.
(Until last year it used to be the Queen’s birthday and it was held on April 30th, which wasn’t actually the birthday of Queen Beatrix, but instead the birthday of her mother Princess Juliana. To thank her mother Beatrix decided to keep her mother’s birthday as Queen’s day. Part of the reason was also that Beatrix’s birthday is in January and that would mean it would often still be too cold for the outdoor celebrations).
The Dutch flag (red, white and blue) is raised and an orange banner is added to symbolize the Dutch Royal family.
On May 4th it’s time again to raise the flag. This time only half way, because on May 4th we remember the people who gave their lives during the 2nd World War.
On that day there is also 2 minutes silence at 8 pm. If you’re in the Netherlands as a tourist on that day you may find that public transport stops for 2 minutes around that time.
One day later, it’s time to raise the flag back to the top as we celebrate the liberation of the Netherlands on May 5th.
The history of the Dutch flag
So, how come the Dutch used to refer to their flag as “‘ranje-blanje-bleu“, which was based on the French colour names and means Orange, White and Blue?
The reason for that is that the Dutch flag used by William of Orange used to have different colours. Although the flag for trade vessels always kept red and not orange, the military ships used the orange that was also known as the Prince’s flag. The flag consisted of three equal horizontal strips of fabric. The width to height ratio of the flag is 3:2.
The strip at the top had an orange colour for the prince’s flag and a bright red for the commercial flag. The strip in the middle was white and the one at the bottom was light blue, almost a sky colour.
The blue and the orange got darker over time and the flag became similar to the one of Luxembourg. To make a more clear difference, the blue was darkened considerably, the red became a deeper red (vermilion red).
As a reminder to the royal family a banner was added with a bright orange colour. The banner is only used for days related to the royal family, although these days people also use it these days when we celebrate a victory of the Dutch national football (soccer) team.
These days we don’t mention the colours any more. It is referred to as “De Hollandse driekleur” (The Dutch tricolour).