What to do in Amsterdam: weekend 4/5 May

If you are in Amsterdam this weekend, then you are lucky enough to have planned your trip here during a very special weekend indeed.

This weekend, 4 & 5 May, the country celebrates the back-to-back days of Memorial Day (Nationale Herdenkingsdag) and Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag).

Memorial Day is on 4 May and commemorates all Dutch citizens (both military and civilian) who have lost their lives since WW2 – both in war and in peace operations.

Dam Square During Memorial Day

Among some of the events going on during Memorial Day are: a silent march from Museumplein to Dam Square led by the Mayor of Amsterdam, the yearly 2 minutes of silence observed all over the country (including in Hotel V!) at 8 pm, and speeches from the Queen and the Prince on Dam Square in front of the War Memorial.

More information about Memorial Day is found here.

The following day, 5 May, is Liberation Day.  This day commemorates when the Netherlands were finally freed from German Occupation during the Second World War.

After the solemnity of the previous day, where we honor lives lost, Liberation Day is all about celebration of life and freedom.  If you think about it, these are two sides of the same coin, which is why they are celebrated back-to-back.

There are many special events planned for Liberation Day.

There will be concerts in and around Dam Square, which is traditionally where people gather in good and bad times.  This year they are honoring Dam Square for this reason, so photos of Dam Square at crucial points in Amsterdam history will be displayed on a large screen during these concerts, called the Canon of the Dam.  You will see photos of demonstrations and protests, Royal weddings and celebrity memorials, shootings (1945) and screamers (2010), and when the Netherlands won the World Cup.  These are all moments in Amsterdam history when the Dam Square served as the backdrop of our sorrow and victory, our anger and pride.  It is only right that the square itself is recognized as well.

A smoke bomb is thrown on Dam Square a few days before the wedding of Queen Beatrix.

Another amazing initiative is the Vrijheidsmaaltijden, (or Freedom Meals for lack of a better translation), where everyone in Amsterdam is encouraged to get together with neighbors and friends to share a meal together.  More large-scale Freedom Meals are organized at the Mayor’s House (invite only of course), at a Detention Center for the inmates, at the Moses & Aaron Church specifically for the homeless, and in neighborhoods, squares and restaurants across the city, but you are also encouraged to do this at home with your neighbors and friends.  A list of Vrijheidsmaaltijden locations can be found here.

Where are you eating on 5 May?

There is much more going on, so look here for all Liberation Day activities.

The Netherlands is known for a lot of things- tolerance, canals, tulips, etc.  But not many people get to see a glimpse into Dutch history like you will see this weekend in Amsterdam and all over the country.  This weekend will show you what the Dutch have both lived and died for, and how we honor it to this day.

Have a good weekend, and if you are in the hotel on Friday 4 May, please honour Dutch lives lost since the Second World War with the two minute silence at 8 pm.

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