Monday, May 05, 2008

Rememberance Day/Liberation Day

Yesterday, 4 May, was Dodenherdenking, or Remembrance Day. It's always on the 4th of May and if it's a work day, you just work it. However, at 8:00 in the evening, the whole country is quiet for two minutes. The queen and her entourage were in Amsterdam at Dam Square for the ceremony. She puts a wreath up before the moment of silence and then afterwards there are a few other wreaths placed and then a bunch of flowers are placed by some kids. The whole thing is in commemoration of everyone who died in World War II and the wars after that. Before the ceremony on the square, there's a gathering in the Nieuwe Kerk where people talk. It's attended by the queen and lots of officials.

When asked why WWI was not commemorated, I was informed that the Netherlands didn't participate in WWI. (They didn't cover that in World History in Bedford, Texas.) And what about the war before that? That was the war against the Belgians, and apparently no one really thinks about that too much.

Today, 5 May, is Vrijdingsdag, or Liberation Day. It's always on the 5th of May and if it's a work day, you only get it off if you work for the government, if you're a civil servant, or if you work for a school. All others businesses are optional - and they usually opt out of a free day off. Some towns have a pop concert to commemorate it. What are we celebrating the liberation of? It's the liberation from the German occupation during the Second World War. There's a military ceremony at Hotel de Wereld in Wageningen, which is where the Germans signed their formal surrender.

Fred reports that for a couple of years there was a vrijmarkt, which is the giant garage sale that takes over Amsterdam on Queen's Day. According to the rumors I've heard, this is the day that's going to replace Queen's Day if they stop Queen's Day when Beatrix steps down. However, that's only a rumor. I've heard nothing solid about it. (But if it's true, you heard it here first.)

As you can see from the photo, I saw a flag out yesterday and managed to get a decent snap. On the fourth of May they are at half mast and on the fifth, they go all the way up. This country is not a particularly flag waving. There are more flags out in a small town in America on the 4th of July than I've ever seen here.

When I ask most of my students if they are patriotic, it almost doesn't really compute. They're all really happy to be Dutch, but they're not schooled in the whole, patriotism thing that kids are in the US. There's no Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. There are no pop singers singing about how great this place is. Patriotism, it seems, can be seen as the first step to nationalism and nationalism can be seen as the first step towards the kind of discrimination that causes a people to wipe out another race. It's just different here.

Additionally, the "Proud to be American" thing doesn't really translate to Dutch. I've gotten, "I don't have a particular desire to be another nationality, but I'm fine with being Dutch." And that whole "America is the greatest nation on earth" really doesn't make it here. People just don't say things like that. In the US, a politician or commentator almost has to say that (or wear an American flag lapel pin) to not be thrown off the stage, but here, a statement like that might make people take you less seriously.

A wack job of a politician, Rita Verdonk, started a movement called "Trots op Nederland," which literally means "Proud of the Netherlands." Fred says that it's doing well because she's "saying what people want to hear," which sort of contradicts everything I've just said, but in general, they don't do the whole "proud" thing. To me, it seems sort of like being proud to be something that you just are.

Of course there's gay pride, which I fully support, but that's a whole different sermon. After being indoctrinated with shame for your whole life (in most cases), a good dose of pride just helps to balance the whole thing out.

So I'm here in this new country trying to fit in, trying to learn about all these new holidays. I was watching the queen last night, with the future queen and king behind her at the ceremony and I thought, "I sure do like them." Am I proud? I sort of can't help it. It's in my blood.

1 comment:

Grace said...

when I was a little girl and could not sleep my mother told me to think of something really nice, something I wanted to do, I always had the same thoughts, I wanted to visit the windmills and tulip gardens of Holland. I love visiting your blog just to learn more and more about the country, thanks Andy for sharing