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5 mei – Bevrijdingsdag: Celebrating Freedom Posted by on May 5, 2017 in Culture, Dutch Language, History

Yesterday, I wrote about the Dodenherdenking, the Dutch Memorial Day, remembering all Dutch burgers (citizens) and soldaten (soldiers) that have fallen since the Tweede Wereldoorlog (Second World War). Today, that sad and difficult mood made a 180 degrees turn. Because today, it is time to celebrate vrijheid (freedom).


A jeep full of people celebrating freedom on May 8, 1945. They drive past the Nieuwe Kerk in Amsterdam, the same church where yesterday’s Herdenkingsbijeenkomst was held.

A difficult end

On 5 mei (May 5th) 1945, the Duitse leger (German army) officially capitulated and the Netherlands was bevrijd (liberated). The south of the country had already been liberated before the winter of 1944. However, the cities above the rivers Maas, Waal and Rhine had not been liberated – which included cities like Amsterdam, Utrecht or Den Haag (The Hague). The winter of 1944 was a terrible one, in which people lacked everything. Especially food. The citizens would eat anything to survive, even tulpenbollen (tulip bulbs). The winter of 1944 is therefore often referred to as the Hongerwinter (Hunger Winter).
But, on 5 mei, all that quickly made room for celebrations. And since then, the Netherlands has celebrated that vrhijheid in a big way.

Het officiële programma

Like yesterday at the Dodenherdenking, the Bevrijdingsdag also has its own official program.

Officially, the Bevrijdingsdag started today at 12:00 (noon CEST) in Haarlem, in the province of Noord-Holland (North Holland). With the theme “De kracht van het persoonlijke verhaal” (the power of the personal story), the acteur (actor) Nasrdin Dchar read the 5 mei-lezing (May 5 reading) and Neal de Hoop – aged 12 – read the 5 mei-kinderlezing (May 5 children’s reading). Minister-president (Prime Minister) Mark Rutte attended. After the readings and his toespraak (speech), he officially kicked off the day by igniting the bevrijdingsvuur (liberation fire) at Bevrijdingspop Haarlem.

In the evening, the day is officially and traditionally ended with the 5-mei concert (May 5 concert) on the Amstel in Amsterdam.

However, in the meantime, a lot of celebrations take place. Artists from all over the Netherlands and beyond perform at 14 festivals. And they are all free. The whole country celebrates!


One specialty is that ever year, two artists are flown from one festival to the next with a helicopter. Check out the video below, in which Dutch artist Nielson flies from one city to the next as ambassadeur van de vrijheid (ambassador of freedom).

I will celebrate at the festival in Groningen this year. Where will you celebrate? Find the closest festival to you here. 

Do you have such a celebratory day in your country? Will you celebrate freedom together with the Dutch today? Let me know in the comments below!

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, and I am half Dutch and half German. I was on exchange in the United States, and I really enjoyed that year! So in that sense, I kind of have three nationalities... I love all of them!


  1. Teri Sprackland:

    Certainly this day is worth remembering and celebrating: “Hoort! Het vrije woord, bringt an zijn nood, zijn vechters voor.” To the best of my recollection, this paean to freedom was on the international Presd Club in Den Haag, when I lived there 1966-68. It helped inspire me to become a journalist.

  2. PapaVanTwee:

    Here in the US, we have both days. Liberation (Independance) day is July 4th. And Memorial day is the 4th Monday of the Month of May. Memorial day is my favorite, but only because I live in Indianapolis, and the Sunday before is the Indy 500!