May 5th: Celebrating Freedom

May 5th is a special day for the Dutch. On this day we celebrate our freedom. It used to be tied exclusively to the liberation from the German occupation of WWII on May 5, 1945. However, over the last decade the day has become a more general celebration of peace and freedom so it can appeal to the younger generations as well. Usually all major cities organize festivities and Dutch flags are hung out.

May 4th is a special day too. On this day all war casualties, especially those of WWII, are commemorated. This is done by a special service in the New Church of Amsterdam attended by the royal family, ministers, prime minister and veterans. After the service, a short speech is held at the war victims memorial monument on the Dam in Amsterdam and the royal family lays a wreath at the monument.

The ceremony is completed by two minutes of silence at 8:00 PM (20:00) sharp. This is not only done at the monument, but also everywhere else, throughout the Netherlands. Even trains and buses halt for two minutes.

This moment of silence is intended for reflecting upon the peace and freedom we can enjoy thanks to the sacrifice of all those soldiers that died in battle. After the two minutes of silence the national anthem is played, a short speech is held and then everybody who wants to, can pass by the monument to lay flowers or poems. Usually the whole ceremony is broadcasted on national television.

Even if you are not Dutch it could not hurt to take two minutes to think about the privilege of living in a free country!