Dutch Language Blog

Cinco de Mayo in the Netherlands Posted by on May 8, 2014 in Culture

You may think of tacos, corn, Spanish guitars and a lot of celebration when you hear Cinco de Mayo, but in the Netherlands the 5th of May has a different meaning. It has much more to do with the official capitulation of the Nazis on this day exactly 69 years ago. Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) on May 5th comes after May 4th, which is Herdenkingsdag (Remembrance Day) in the Netherlands. It is a day meant to remember the Dutch fallen in the Tweede Wereldoorlog (Second World War), both citizens and soldiers. From 1961, this has included all soldiers that have fallen after the second World War. On Remembrance Day, so May 4th, there is a 2 minute silence at 8 PM exactly. So when it starts, everything is silent, and the church bells start counting to 8. It is quite an impressive moment every year again. After the two minutes, the Wilhelmus, the Dutch national anthem, starts. The official national herdenking is on The Dam in Amsterdam, where the King placed a wreath. However, there are remembrance events in 97% of the municipalities. Something many Dutch people do is de vlag halfstok hangen (hang the flag half-mast), the symbol for mourn.

5 mei herdenking (Image by Archangel12 at Flickr.com)

See here the entire herdenkingsdag as broadcasted on TV. The day after, on May 5th, the depressive mood is turned into one great party. There are several bevrijdingsfestivals (Liberation Festivals) around the country and other festivities. People now use their entire flag pole and show the happiness. Why May 5th, and not V-E Day on May 8th? Well, on May 4th, the Nazi General responsible for the Netherlands capitulated, and this capitulation was valid the next day. So May 5th, the Netherlands was officially a free country again!   There are in total 14 of these bevrijdingsfestivals. Some Dutch artists are chosen as ambassadeurs van de vrijheid (ambassadors of freedom) that are flown to the different festivals across the country by helicopter to perform there as well. In addition, May 4th and May 5th are holidays, but generally most stores do not close. Supermarkets and the like are still open. Do you have such national days in your country? If yes, when and why exactly do you celebrate them? How do you celebrate, or how do you remember?

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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Marie-Jacqueline:

    My name is Marie-Jacqueline and I am from Limburg province, the Netherlands

    I do like your blog on the Netherlands.

    Sometimes it is surprising how you view the Netherlands.

    I do appreciate that you explained 4th and 5th May.

    Despite your effort to be correct; you made a mistake in the time of day the commemoration of May 4th is held.

    It is at 20.00 hours or 8 pm.

    I hope you don’t mind the correction!

    Keep on writing!


    • Sten:

      @Marie-Jacqueline Oh of course! Thank you, and I do not mind at all. I appreciate it! 😉

  2. Bahram:

    Pls add some funny pictures (cartoons….)also.