The month of May is significant on the Dutch calendar. Within a week of King's Day (Koningsdag), the awareness is shifting towards the past; specifically, the end of the occupation that Nazi Germany held during World War II. On May 4, Remembrance Day and on May 5, Liberation Day commemorate this historic event.
Remembrance Day (4 May)
Remembrance Day started as a memorial day for those killed during World War II, but since 1961 it also includes victims of other military conflicts and peacekeeping missions.
The Dutch royal family, military leaders, and veterans attend the main Remembrance Day ceremonies, which include speeches and flower-laying ceremonies to honor the soldiers and civilians who died in wars across the world.
Commemoration ceremonies take place in almost every town throughout the Netherlands. However, The most famous locations are the National Monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam, the Waalsdorpvlakte near The Hague and the war cemetery in Grebbeberg.
It is important to note that there is a two-minute silence at 8 pm on May 4 every year. During this time, shops are not allowed to be open and serve customers, and bars will turn off the music. Moreover, public transport is stopped as well as all other traffic.
Liberation Day ( 5 May)
Liberation Day (Bevrijdingingsdag) takes place the day after Remembrance Day, celebrating the freedom of the Netherlands from Nazi occupation after World War II.
The occupation began on May 10, 1940 and ended 5 years later when German General Blaskowitz signed the surrender of the Nazi occupational forces in the Netherlands in Hotel De Wereld in Wageningen.
Festival and Events
The celebration of freedom and democracy starts with lighting a torch in Wageningen. Afterward, a team of 1,300 runners carry the Liberation Flame to 200 municipalities throughout the Netherlands.
Free Liberation Festivals take place all over the Netherlands with more than 200 artists performing. Closest to Leiden, you can find the festivals in The Hague or Amsterdam. Check out the full list.
In Leiden, you can enjoy the ‘Happy Feelings and Sunday Social’ music festival. Get your tickets here.
Besides music festivals, most cities have other events, such as military parades, debates, street theater performances, festival markets, guided tours, movies and more.
More in the Leiden region
Leiden - Along Heren -and Doezastraat you will find a vibrant street market with a variety of stalls. Local shops and restaurants will sell their products, as well as children, accompanied with music.
Leiden - For those looking for a culinary experience, the Pieterskwartier offers unique food and drinks to all. Check out the event.
Leiderdorp – Festivities take place at the Houtkamp between 1-6 pm. You can find free music at Brassiepark from 2 pm onwards.
Voorschoten – Liberation party at Voorstraat from 2 pm onwards.