Istanbul’s first King’s Day
WILCO VAN HERPENFor Dutch people in the Netherlands and all over the world, we had a first this year; the first time that we celebrated the birthday of our king. For over 100 years, to be exact, 124 years, we had a queen. But last year Queen Beatrix decided to have a calmer life and handed over the crown to Willem Alexander.
I clearly remember when Queen Beatrix was crowned. That day, two big events happened: The crowning of Queen Beatrix and serious demonstrations against the crowning. There was a lack of housing in Amsterdam and the protestors shouted “Geen Woning Geen Kroning” (no house, no crowning). Last year, during the crowning of King Willem Alexander, no such demonstrations happened.
This year, especially for the children, there was a king’s festival in Tarabya. Members of the Dutch society in Turkey keep some of the traditions alive.
I remember clearly when I was about six or seven years old. During the Queen’s Day, we, my sister, mother, father and I used to go to my kindergarten. There, at the school square, the teachers had turned the playground into a fun game place. We played all different kinds of old Dutch traditional games, like “koek happen” (biting a cookie that hangs on a rope) or pin the tail on the donkey. Also, children had to aim for a nail attached to a thin rope to put it in a small bottle: fun for the children to do, fun for us to see.
Unfortunately, the weather was not very good, but still quite some people showed up. One of the biggest attractions and traditions of this celebration is that children organize a flea market. They sell their toys, books and DVD’s that they do not use anymore. For them, and especially the parents, I think, an occasion to clean up their rooms and get rid of some of their stuff. For other people, it’s nice because otherwise you have to pay a fortune in the Netherlands for it. And… for me, it is fun to do. As a child, I used to go with my parents to flea markets. My father would give me five or 10 Guilders and told me that I could buy whatever I wanted with this money.
This is how they taught me the love for flea markets, something we do not really have in Turkey. There are a number of auction houses, but real flea markets? No. Commerce always comes in and you find a lot of China junk at those places as well. Or half of it is turned into an animal market. Flea markets are important. It is there that children, at an early stage, learn to value old things. Not just mosques, churches and castles, but also small things like books, pictures, documents or just an inheritance from your parents or family. That’s how you teach your child how to love the history of your family and country.
So last Sunday, April 27, I went to the King’s Day market. As expected, a lot of children with their goods were there. We bought a couple of real useful things and started to look around to see what more there was to do. I was in shock; it was as if they put me back 42 years in time. ALL of the games I used to play were there: rope pulling (tug of war), pin the tail on the donkey, running with a potato on a spoon, etc. It was such fun to see those kids running around, having fun without any mobile phone or tablet in their hand. They were active, did not feel the cold and had fun.
For me, besides seeing the happiness on my daughter’s face, was to see a lot of mixed families (Turkish-Dutch) and even Turkish families who lived in the Netherlands, but returned to Turkey. Those people found something nice in the Netherlands and still treasure it. They want to stay in touch with some of the Dutch traditions. I sat down and looked around. Next to me two kids of around 9-years-old were having a conversation. They spoke about what they liked most here and who had won most of the games. “Did you try the ‘poffertjes’ [a small mini traditional pancake with powder sugar]?” he asked. It was not only the topic that made this chat interesting, it was because of the way they used their languages: a mixture of Dutch and Turkish, with an English word every now and then. It made me happy to overhear this little chat; I knew these kids would be multi-lingual very soon (if not already).