4 & 5 May: Remembrance Day and Liberation Day (Photo: Melanie Caitlin)

4 & 5 May: Remembrance Day and Liberation Day

The Netherlands is unique among the other European countries in having two national ceremony days originating from the Second World War: Remembrance Day – ‘Dodenherdenking’ and Liberation Day – ‘Bevrijdingsdag’. On 4 May there are Dutch flags fly at half mast and solemn ceremonies commemorating all the Dutch who have died in conflicts worldwide. and especially in memory of those who died in the Second World War. The Netherlands was occupied in May 1940 and many died in the following five years. [restrict] On 5 May, we celebrate the Liberation of the Netherlands from the Second World War.  We celebrate that we liberated in 1945 by the German occupation in Europe and that from that moment we have been free from war and oppression. Liberation Day has changed in character during the years. Nowadays on 5 May we celebrate freedom in the widest sense of the term: liberation in the past, present and future. Liberation from war but also from other constrictions, like freedom from negation of liberty of voting, of the press, of wearing the clothes that you like. Liberation all over the world, especially where it is threatened. Anyway, 5 May remains a day to reflect on the importance of freedom and realize that freedom is fragile. For freedom in the Netherlands, many have fought and even given their lives.

The rituals

Remembrance Day – 4 May

4 May: The official, nationally televised commemoration begins in the evening with a service in de Nieuwe Kerk (New Church) in Amsterdam. After the service veterans, victims’ relatives and Prime Minister, a representation of the States General and of the Council Of Ministers Of The Kingdom and of the Royal family proceed to nearby Dam Square and lay wreaths at the National War Memorial. The first wreath is laid by the Prime Minister, who represents the Dutch population. Church bells ring for a quarter of an hour till 20h, when there is a nationwide two-minutes silence. Wherever you will be in the Netherlands at that time, it is appropriate to hold two-minutes silence too. In a shop, at the gym, in a bar… everywhere people respectfully do it. Dignitaries of victims’ groups lay then 5 wreaths for the different groups of war victims, followed by more wreaths laid by the Dutch authorities. The ceremony ends with wreaths laid by children from primary schools in Amsterdam. The number of children is every year equal to the number of years that we live in freedom in the Netherlands. The memorial has a national character: there are no wreaths laid by representatives of other countries. Not by countries that were involved in the liberation of the kingdom, nor by countries that have occupied the Kingdom.

Liberation Day – 5 May

The Prime Minister launches the Day’s events, traditionally from a different province each year. Cultural readings and exhibitions reflecting that year’s topical theme follow. The theme for 2014 is: “Freedom is something you should pass on”. The big event of the day in many Dutch towns is an open air pop festival featuring top acts. Liberation festivals have a long tradition, which started in Haarlem: since 1980 there are festivals in Haarlem, Amsterdam and Wageningen. Since 1994 Liberation Festivals are hold in more provinces. This year 14 festivals are organised in the Netherlands.  Liberation Festivals have become the biggest one-day cultural event in the Netherlands. Nearly one million people annually celebrate freedom. Festivals are also designed to get young people involved. In the evening in Amsterdam, there is an official, televised concert at the Amstel Bridge attended by the King and Queen and government ministers.

Bevrijdingspop (Liberation Festival Party) Haarlem 2014

Bevrijdingsfestival or Bevrijdingspop Haarlem 2014 is the first and one of the biggest festivals in the Netherlands. Every year it’s a big party, with the best line-up! This year, Kensington, Douwe Bob and Gers Pardoel will be the Ambassadeors of Freedom. But also popular names like Bløf, De Staat, The Opposites en Niels Geusebroek will be in the Haarlemmerhout. In Haarlem, the program starts at 12h and goes on until about 23h. Next to the Haarlemmerhout there will also be a Silent Disco and Children’s Festival. With may great performances. DJs, workshops and delicious food. Shortly, a Bevrijdingspop for everyone! Get an overview of the programme of the Bevrijdingspop Haarlem 2014 and enjoy! (Sources: Nationaal Comité 4 en 5 mei and Bevrijdingspop Haarlem 2014).

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Dutch flag at half mast in Haarlem (Photo Arianna Ardia)

Dutch flag at half mast in Haarlem (Photo Arianna Ardia)

Bevrijdingspop Haarlem, Main stage (Photo Oana Botezat)

Bevrijdingspop Haarlem, Main stage (Photo Oana Botezat)

myHaarlem at Bevrijdingspop (Photo: Arianna Ardia)

myHaarlem at Bevrijdingspop (Photo: Arianna Ardia)

Kraantje pappie Bevrijdingspop haarlem

Kraantje pappie Bevrijdingspop haarlem (Photo: Melanie Caitlin)