Today, the Dutch, like the Mexicans, celebrate their freedom – specifically we celebrate our liberation from Nazi Germany in 1945. The day before May 5 is Remembrance Day, marked by flying the flag at half-mast and having 2 minutes of silence at 8 o’clock in the evening.
2007 has so far been the sort of year that sneaks up on you, or at least it’s been for me. So despite seeing the flags and hearing it mentioned in the media, I forgot to commemorate the dead. Sorry, the dead!
Actually, for people my age and younger, it’s pretty hard to put any concrete face on the dead of World War II. There is some public debate on whether Remembrance Day should continue. An overwhelming majority seem to think it should, which puzzles me a bit. Once everyone who knew someone who died in WW II is him/herself dead, it’s going to be an empty sort of ritual, which I don’t think is what the body politic needs.
Oddly, there doesn’t seem to be an overwhelming majority for keeping the May 5 celebration, which is even stranger. The results of our liberation are with us every day and the benefits of not living in a fascist state can be explained to and understood by a small child. Even now, it’s a far more relevant occasion than Remembrance. But as early as the 1980s, the celebration was downgraded to a lustral feast instead of an annual one. Luckily, that has been reversed, but the debate over it comes up every once in a while. I didn’t hear it this year, but that was because I haven’t been paying much attention to the media lately.
Maybe it’s because Liberation Day celebrations are fun, and the Netherlands have for most of the post-war years been cursed with Christian-Democrat led governments (or their predecessors – the current CDA was formed, or rather congealed, in the late 1970s) run by people who don’t like fun, or at least find it somewhat unseemly to enjoy oneself in public. In the past few decades, the most visible form of Liberation Day Celebration has been the Bevrijdingsfestivals, free music festivals in city parks. In other words, loud noises, drinks, greasy food and alternative/charity-oriented stalls selling or promoting stuff.
Personally, I’m not a big festival fan. I prefer seeing bands indoors, in some smelly den, in the dark, with good beer on tap. But today, it looks like it’s gonna be nice weather outside, and there are some bands I’d like to see. If you’re going to the Bevrijdingsfestival in Groningen, I’ll be seeing Johan on the main stage at quarter past five, Planet Orange on the Local Heroes stage at half past seven, and Cochon Bleu on the northern stage at eight (schedules are approximate and subject to change at the last minute, though festivals these days do run a tighter ship than they used to). Meet me there over a watery festival beer!