It’s not all too common these days to hear about a King or a Queen, but in many parts of the world affinity for royalty remains strong. Way down in the idyllic south Caribbean sea lies a small island that’s about to celebrate a big holiday.
King’s Day in Curacao
King’s Day, or Koningsdag as it is known in the Dutch constituent country of Curacao, which is located in the Dutch Caribbean. To get further insight into the significance of this annual holiday, we spent some time chatting with Mark Sjollema, who was born and raised on Curacao and has celebrated Koningsdag all his life.
Mark, Introduce yourself, what do you do these days?
“My Name is Mark Sjollema, and I was born and raised on the beautiful Island of Dushi Korsou (amazing Curacao) located in the Dutch Caribbean and is part of the ABC islands. I am currently the Food and Beverage Service Manager at the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort.”
What is King’s day?
“Koningsdag is a national Holiday in the Kingdom of the Netherlands that celebrates the birth of our current king, King Willem-Alexander on the 27th of April. We have only been celebrating King’s day since 2014 as the Holiday used to be known as Queensday until Queen Beatrix abdicated the throne and was succeeded by her son.”
What is Curacao’s relation to, or history with, the Netherlands?
“Curacao was a Dutch Colony from 1845 until 1936. From 1936 to 1948 Curacao was known as the Territory of Curacao. After 1948, Curacao went on to become part of the Netherlands Antilles, which consisted of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Sint Maarten, Saba, and Sint Eustatius. In 2010 the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved, and Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba (BES Islands) became special Municipalities of the Netherlands while Curacao and Sint Maarten Became Constituent countries within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.”
Does the Entire Island Celebrate King’s day? What sort of Activities and Celebrations takes place?
“King’s Day is celebrated largely by all residents, and then any tourists who find themselves on the island during this time. King’s Night is getting increasingly popular as it allows people to ring in the celebrations one night earlier. Parties are held to attract all types of people with different tastes. Anything from house parties, R&B, hip-hop, pop, to local music, which is a mixture of Merengue, Salsa, Reggaeton, and Bubbling. On the day itself, Punda, which is located in the center of town, hosts a day filled with a variety of activities for young and old. There is a King’s market with over 200 stands throughout the whole city center and live performances, cultural activities, and shopping.”
Is it only one day, or do celebrations span a few days?
“King’s day is only one day but as previously mentioned King’s night is getting increasingly popular.”
What do you love most about King’s day? How do you celebrate each year?
“I love that people from all cultures come together to celebrate our King’s birthday. Everyone walks around with a smile and enjoys the atmosphere. Just like everyone else, I go into town with my friends and family, and we walk around and enjoy the festivities.”
YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY: A Holiday Dressed in Orange, Fit for Kings, and Filled With Bargains: Koningsdag
Are there certain foods or drinks associated with the day?
“If you are going to celebrate a Dutch National Holiday there are certain foods that you have to enjoy and consume. Bitterballen are fried balls filled with ragu and anything from cheese, meat, chicken, or even seafood. Other foods are Kipcorn, Frikandel, Patatje oorlog, all fried foods. And the one beverage that can’t be missing that day is beer, beer, beer, and some more beer.”
Is there a difference between celebrating on the Island VS. In the Netherlands? How do they differ?
“There is not much of a difference between celebrating King’s Day on Curacao and in the Netherlands, except that everything is on a much larger scale in the Netherlands. King’s Night in the Netherlands is insane. All clubs, bars, café’s are open until the wee hours of the morning. King’s Day itself is an awesome thing to see. The whole city is filled with orange, from the people walking in the streets to everyone on their boats going through the canals. I have had the honor of celebrating King’s day both in Amsterdam and in Curacao, and nothing beats celebrating in Amsterdam.”
How do you suggest visitors celebrate if they are in town during Koningsdag?
“My advice for anyone visiting our beautiful little island is to go to town and enjoy the many fun and entertaining activities that day. You will see how everyone puts aside their worries and unites to celebrate our King’s Birthday. After having experienced that, you will want to come back next year!”
Thank you, Mark, for sharing with us the meaning of Koningsdag, how you celebrate, and how everyone else can celebrate! We hope you have an incredible Koningsdag this year, filled with all of your favorite people and festivities.
For those looking to visit Curacao in general, or for Koningsdag in the future, you can find luxury accommodations at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort.