One of the great things about festivals in Holland is that, for those living in Britain, they are amongst the most accessible in the whole of Europe. Add to that the fact that many of the Dutch festivals are in or near Amsterdam, and it’s easy to see why so many people like to combine a visit to one of Europe’s favourite tourist destinations with a few days at a festival.
And there are certainly some fine Dutch festivals from which to select. Some of the traditional local festivals can be quite spectacular. The festival at Brielle, for example, held each year on April 1st celebrates the town’s revolt against the Spanish rulers. A thrilling five scene play is dramatically enacted in various parts of the town – and the party in the evening is quite dazzling as well.
There is a long tradition of Christmas markets in Holland, running from the end of November all the way to Christmas Eve. One of the most unusual of these is the Gemeentegrot market in the town of Valkenburg; it’s unusual in that it takes place in caves that were in use in Roman times underneath the town.
Holland is, of course, often regarded as ‘the flower bed of Europe’ and its flower growing traditions are at the heart of many local and national festivals. Largest by far of these festivals is the Holland Flowers Festival at The Greenery in Zwaagdjik-Oost, in late February or March, where 150,000 separate tulips, daffodils, crocuses, hyacinths and many, many more varieties can be seen.
One of the festivals in Holland most eagerly awaited by the Dutch people themselves takes place on April 30th in most of the country’s towns and cities. Koninginnendag, or Queen’s Day, is officially a day of celebration of the birthday of the Dutch Queen Mother and the whole country turns into an orange festival site. With parades and parties, Queen’s Day festivities are enormous fun throughout the country but the largest party areas are in Amsterdam itself, which becomes a sea of orange.
Very different to the Amsterdam Orange Festival, and taking place in the city during June, is the multi-disciplinary Holland Festival, the oldest – and the largest – arts festival in the country. Theatre, music, dance, opera, film and the visual arts are all catered for in this series of events that regularly attracts performers and visitors from all over the world.
There are two highly successful modern music extravaganzas that also attract thousands of people to Holland each summer. The Pinkpop Festival is credited by the Guinness Book of Records as being the world’s oldest continuously running pop music festival and takes place annually at the excellent Megaland festival site at Landgraaf in the south of the country. Held at the end of May, near Pentecost on the calendar (Pinkpop derives from Pinksteren Pop, meaning Pop at Pentecost), 60,000 people attend each of the festival’s three days. There is, additionally, a Pinkpop Classic Festival, which generally features slightly more ‘mature’ groups and performers.
The Lowlands Festival is the other major modern music event in Holland, taking place at the Walibi World Amusement Park in Biddinghuizen each August. Attracting similar numbers of festival goers to Pinkpop, Lowlands also has an excellent programme of comedy, theatre and the visual arts. Together, Pinkpop and the Lowlands Festival represent high quality festival experiences, both in superb settings with excellent facilities.
For lovers of jazz music rather than pop and rock, the North Sea Jazz Festival, in and around Rotterdam, is three days of the very best of the genre. Indeed, the American Jazz magazine voted the North Sea Jazz Festival as the ‘best in Europe’, which, considering the ‘opposition‘, is a tremendous accolade.
The people of Holland have a well-deserved reputation of enjoying their lives to the full and the variety and quality of festivals in Holland is a tribute to their undoubted ability to be able to find any excuse to have a good time.