The Netherlands celebrates its first King's Day in 122 years

The abdication of Queen Beatrix means the country now has a male monarch

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The Independent Online

The future is bright, the future is orange – especially in the Netherlands. Millions of Dutch took to the street clad in the national colours yesterday for the traditional celebration of the monarch’s birthday.

For the past 122 years, the national holiday has always been called Queen’s Day. But with the abdication of Queen (now princess) Beatrix, the Dutch now have a male monarch in King Willem-Alexander. The overall tradition of Queen’s Day, which used to be celebrated on April 30th and which is now celebrated on April 27th - unless that is a Sunday - still holds.

The country marked its first-ever Kings Day since the occasion was first celebrated in 1890 when princess Wilhelmina became queen following the death of her father. Queen Juliana, Wilhelmina's daughter, was crowned in 1948 and from 1949, the Queen's Day celebrations honored her birthday on April 30. Queen Juliana’s daughter Beatrix became queen on April 30, 1980. Her birthday is on January 31, but Queen's Day remained on April 30 – coinciding with Queen Beatrix’s own coronation day and her mother’s birthday.

“Why change something that's a success?” the king said in a speech in Amstelveen, after proclaiming his day “unforgettable.” In a prerecorded message carried by national broadcaster NOS, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said “music and good times are everywhere: all the ingredients for a splendid day.”

Tradition dictates that everyone is entitled to sell any second-hand items everywhere, resulting in massive flea markets in the cities. Stalls and blankets are set ups in the parks, on sidewalks and even on the roads themselves to sell their second hand goodies from the early morning onwards.

Every year, the royals visit a town or municipality in the Netherlands as part of the celebrations. This year, the King and his Argentinian-born wife, Queen Maxima, were greeted by thousands of enthusiastic fans in the little fishing village of De Rijp. To mark the occasion Queen Maxima hit a ball into the mouth of a mock-up whale - symbol of the town's past as a whale processing centre.

Later the royal couple travelled to Amstelveen near Amsterdam, where they participated in traditional Dutch games including playing tennis with locals.

Being member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and showing a great interest in sport related issues, the King introduced King’s Games as part of the celebrations. Over a million primary school children took place in this sporting event, which tries to show children how much fun it is to exercise.

Although the Monarchy is popular in the Netherlands, some critics question the cost of the royal household and are seeking a reduction to the king’s tax-free salary of 825.000 euros (about £680.000).