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Koninginnedag Festival to celebrate Calvin’s Dutch heritage

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The Dutch department is sponsoring a celebration of Koninginnedag (Queen’s Day), a traditional Dutch holiday, on commons lawn April 30 at 3:30 p.m.

In the Netherlands, Koninginnedag is the biggest festival of the year. People  in every city take to the streets for games, food, a flea market and for two lucky cities each year, a visit from the royal family.

Calvin’s festivities will begin with a rendition of the Dutch national anthem,  “Wilhelmus,” around the flagpole nearby Spoelhof center. Pastries and games on commons lawn will follow.

Herman De Vries, Frederick Meijer chair in Dutch language and culture, says Koninginnedag is the perfect Dutch festival to celebrate at Calvin because it wasn’t kept up by the immigrants to Michigan. Therefore, he explains that it is authentically Dutch, not just American Dutch. He hopes celebrating it will allow Calvin to celebrate its connection to the Netherlands just like we celebrate our connection to the other countries Calvin students come from.

In recent years, many have felt that Calvin’s Dutch heritage was something to be hushed up, rather than celebrated. Some outside the Dutch community wish that Calvin celebrated the Dutch culture more.

Bethany Conway, a former student at Calvin, writes: “Sometimes I felt like the Dutch heritage was just taken for granted. When you’ve grown up with something your whole life, it is very natural and normal. So in that sense, I think I missed out on learning about Dutch culture because nobody was outwardly teaching it.”

While DeVries hopes to change that, he also acknowledges that the college’s historical ties to the Netherlands have sometimes made the college feel exclusive to people from other backgrounds.

“We’ve often been parochial and exclusionary about such things,” he says. “There was a time when Calvin was called “onze (our) school” — they’d use the Dutch phrase even when speaking English. I’m aware that our Calvin community has too often been ethnocentric.”

Calvin’s historical ties to the Netherlands have lead to two visits by Dutch royalty in the past: first by Queen Juliana and Prins Bernhard in 1952 and later by Queen Beatrix and Prins Claus on June 26, 1982.

Beatrix visited West Michigan to celebrate 200 years of friendly relations between the Netherlands and America. The queen was received by then-Calvin president Tony Diekema and hundreds of well-wishers in front of DeWit manor on a Saturday morning. The queen helped plant a tree there — a red maple that flames a fitting orange in the fall to signify the ties the college has to its Dutch heritage.

Koninginnedag is held to honor the woman that helped plant that tree at Calvin over thirty years ago: the queen. It was first celebrated in 1885 as Prinsessedag, in honor of Princess Wilhelmina and was changed to Koninginnedag when she ascended the throne. Her daughter, Juliana, became queen in 1948. Since then, it has been held on her birthday, April 30. Although Queen Beatrix was born on Jan. 31, she opted to continue holding the festival on her mother’s birthday.

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