Thursday, April 28, 2005

Pre-Queen's Day Thoughts

It's the crack of dawn on the Thursday before Queen's Day. I just got up and the sun is shining really brightly through the front windows. I remember last year on Queen's Day getting up and being absolutely amazed at the number of people downstairs on the square, or "plein" as we say here. It was 9:00 at the time and I was stunned.

I remember, too, that a week before the big day kids and adults were drawing lines on the sidewalk and writing inside, "Maartje" or "Hans" to claim their spot. These children, or adults, were estimating the amount of crap they had collected during the year to sell - this being the only day of the year that one can sell his or her personal belongings on the sidewalk. It's the Dutch equivilant to a yard sale or, in New York, a stoop sale.

All over the country sidewalks will be filled with household belongings, antiques, clothing, tchachke. Vendors will be out selling real things - hotdogs, hats. There's some "no tax" rule for the day. There's also drinking. My friend, Andi, said, "Last year I had my first beer at ten in the morning." It's a long day and F had us do housework until around 1:00.

This year it's not such a holiday because it's on Saturday. If it happens to fall during the week it's a national holiday, if it falls on the weekend, bad luck. Same with Christmas and New Years. There's not all this giving you the Friday or Monday off instead as an extra day off. Not these Dutch. You have the day. So what it's on a Saturday? Is that our fault?

I haven't heard so much in terms of the lead up, people preparing or talking about it. A guy at work was being sent to Poland and said, "I must come back Friday. I don't care how late. I can't miss Queen's Day." (He's Portugese) But that's been about it. I'm looking forward. It's a spectical.

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