Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Chalk War of 2006

Background - What is Queen's Day?
Every year Queens Day is celebrated on April 30 - that is, when it's not on a Sunday. In the year 2000 it was a Sunday so Queens Day was on Saturday, April 29. It is not the birthday of the current Queen, Queen Beatrix, but the birthday of her mother, princess Juliana, who reigned from 1948 until 1980.

The day is celebrated throughout the country in different ways; mostly folklore performances and flea markets.

Children perform in the streets and parks, and people prefer to wear the orange colors of the "House of Orange".

In Amsterdam thousands of people go out to sell-and-buy, listen to music and dance in the streets from early in the morning until late at night. "Oranje Bitter" (an orange colored liquor) and beer are the popular drinks. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't cooperating very much this year. It was rainy and colder than usual. But as you can see, people tried to make the best of it!

The Story:
Every year, a few days before Queen's Day, children of all ages begin marking the sidewalks with chalk or tape outlining where they will sit to sell their goods on Queen's Day. They will write "Bezet" meaning "Taken" and their name, usually. Our square is very popular and is always very crowded with people, so it's a great place to set up shop for the day.

This year, the children, with their large pieces of colorful chalk, have been particularly obnoxious when reserving their spot. And in their desire to be the first, they have started scrawling days ahead of schedule, and very large, and with lots of color. It's silly, childish, a little trashy. It makes both Fred and me roll our eyes.

So Lance, Lili, Hans and all the rest go out in the evenings and mark up the side walk and during the day, someone (a new hero of mine) scrubs it all away. It's all just gone. There are even scrub marks on the sidewalk. It's happened for three days running. It's fabuous. I wish I had a picture of all the little children walking up to see that their names have been scrubbed away and running back to their houses to grab their increasingly small stash of chalk to re-do their outline before someone else nabs their choice spot. I'm sure it's funny. It would even be nice to see the person who scrubs it all away. Fred and I both think that it's the Indonesian man who maintains our building.

Maybe he'll leave it all since tomorrow is Queen's Day and other people have started marking spots around the square, mostly with a thin line of white chalk and a simple "Bezet." It's supposed to rain anyway. So their day of selling - the one day the good people of the Netherlands are allowed to do this, according to rumor - may be ruined and they will have to wait until next year. And we'll all just have to "make the best of it."

Happy Queen's Day!

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