Living in North Holland

How the Dutch honor history

For Americans, Independence Day is one of celebration. We learn about it in school, throw huge parties, and light up the sky with fireworks. We also have Memorial Day, which is a day of remembrance for all those who have fallen in battle. But we don’t have anything like National Remembrance Day or Liberation Day. These two days are particularly important for Dutch history.

World War 2 left a huge impact on the Dutch. It was a war torn country for years. From what I remember, we never learned much about what happened in Europe during WW2. We read books like The Diary of Anne Frank and The Devil’s Arithmetic. But most of the lessons glossed over the general information about the war. We learned the names of a few cities and dates but the real chunks of history come with Pearl Harbor. So learning a bit about the Dutch side was an eye opener.

This brings us to today’s topic, National Remembrance Day and Liberation Day.

National Remembrance Day
May 4th is a day for the Dutch to remember the dead. Since 1961, the citizens have a moment of silence for those who fell during the conflict. All Dutch flags are flown at half mast until the evening. A ceremony takes place each year in the heart of Amsterdam the Dam Square. There, the king and queen attend with various representatives of Parliament and the Council to lead. Usually there are hundreds of people in come to pay tribute. But because of the lock down only Dutch officials and the royal members were in attendance. It’s a somber event and at 8pm there is a moment of silence. Most shops close by 7pm and other major events also take a pause for the 2 minutes. Even traffic stops for this occasion. It’s not a public holiday but still an important date.

My family lived in Indian up until the 1970s and I never had any family involved in WW2. But I could feel my heart ache as we sat through the moment of silence. So many lives lost due to war and some wars never end. I’m privileged to have been born into my life. Others are not so lucky.

You can watch this ceremony on the official NOS Youtube Channel.

Liberation Day
Every 5 years the Dutch get this day off but it’s also associated with WW2. It’s called Bevrijdingsdag and marks the end of the Nazi occupation in The Netherlands. Since this year is 2020, it marks as a day off for the country. It’s the date that General Foulkes of the Canadian forces and German Commander Blaskowitz agreed that the German forces in The Netherlands would surrender. Now it’s a day where every Dutch flag is flown high and proud.

Usually there are music festivals and parades to celebrate. I’m sure next year’s festivities will be the amazing!


I love living in a different country because I get to learn so much about the people and the history. There are so many things I never learned in school because they weren’t important in the eyes of the writers. It’s important to get out and learn about different stories. While the world is large enough that there are no shared experiences, it’s impossible to hear them all. And that’s why I love The Netherlands. There are so many stories around me, all I need to do is stop and listen.

You can find more information about the above holidays on the official National Committee Website.

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