This month’s Mach’ Was challenge has the colour orange as its theme. Well, the first thing that pops up in my mind when the word orange is mentioned is my country, The Netherlands. Orange is an important colour here.

Our royal family is from the noble house of Orange-Nassau, the name originates from the municipality of Orange in the south of France. While we do have a monarchy here (since 1815) our king has no real powers, all political power lies with the prime minister and the government. The king can’t even make an official speech that is not approved by the prime minister but the monarchy is popular here, for their representative and symbolic value. I won’t further elaborate on Dutch constitutional politics here, but what is essential to know is that because our King Willem-Alexander is from that house of Orange-Nassau (and his ancestors before him), orange has become our national colour. It’s a conspicuous colour and is used a lot here.

Orange has historically been an important colour because of this royal house association. During the Second World War it became a symbol for Dutch resistance after the Dutch capitulated to the Nazis in May 1940 and Queen Wilhelmina fled to England. During the war “Radio Oranje” became very important to the Dutch resistance, where messages were broadcast to the Dutch from London by Dutch officials and our Dutch queen Wilhelmina in exile. It was forbidden to listen to the radio during the war but secretly it was done a lot.

Official commendations given by the king are in orange. My father received one for his life’s work in 2003 (not actually from the queen at the time but presented to him by the mayor of the town he lived in).

Nowadays, the most popular use of orange is for anything to do with our national football (soccer to the Americans) teams. Football is our national sport and our national team is called “Oranje” (Dutch for orange). Our female football team is doing really well internationally and is called the “Oranje Leeuwinnen” (orange lionesses – the lion is part of the Dutch coat of arms, Mr Esther could tell you all about it, he is a heraldry expert).

Google ‘Oranje supporters’ (see search result here) and you can see how orange the fans get! The sports fans even have a name, they are called “Het Oranje Legioen” (the orange legion). During the football European and World Championships ‘orange fever’ hits the nation and the streets here are decorated in orange, some more than others (more examples of decorations in this article)…

Thankfully, I have never lived in a street that gets that orange. Frankly, such over the top, nationalistic displays always scare me a little. So far these have only ever been in good fun but what if nationalism like this gets taken too seriously, like it was in Nazi Germany and what I see in the US now as well? Not the topic to discuss in this post, but I do wonder sometimes when and if the scale will be tipped. Anyway, back to the colour orange as used by the Dutch…

For any big international sporting event, orange will always be represented somehow. It’s also popular duing speed skating events (the Dutch perform excellently on the world stage when it comes to speed skating)…

… even our king and his wife, Queen Maxima, come to show support dressed in orange…

International sports tournaments aside, there is one day every year where the country also turns orange and that is during King’s Day when our monarch’s birthday is celebrated. It used to be Queen’s Day when we had Queen Beatrix (who abdicated in 2013) but after 7 years I still catch myself sometimes saying “Koninginnedag” (Queen’s Day) instead of “Koningsdag” (King’s Day). I have posted about King’s Day several times before (see the King’s Day tag) and I admit that I give in to nationalist sentiment then when I wear my one orange item of clothing: an orange scarf that I’ve had for many years. It’s the one nationalist day a year that I really do enjoy, as everything is one big outdoor party.

We even have orange pastry to celebrate, with the oblong-shaped tompouce being the most popular orange pastry.

So yeah, when you come to The Netherlands, and especially when you stay here for a longer period, the colour orange can not be escaped! It is the symbol of Dutch togetherness and patriotism.

27 thoughts on “Orange

  1. Pingback: Gemeinschaftsblogprojekt ‘Mach was!’ – Ergebnis #63 und neues Thema | Unkraut vergeht nicht….oder doch?

  2. Servetus

    Hup Holland Hup! I love that the wikipedia article includes a section how to eat a tompouce.

    Something that’s been interesting to me is that the increasing level of open nationalism isn’t really affiliated with professional sports. I think this has something to do with the demography of professional players — so many of them are African American. Trump has very explicitly tweeted his ire at anyone who supports the protests against racism, and although the NFL initially caved to him, since this summer they’ve been much more supportive of efforts for racial justice. And now all the professional sports broadcasts have been accompanied by ads for getting out the vote, for the first time ever.

    Not to say that building nationalism is not a problem here but I would have assumed it would have a closer relationship with sporting events than it seems to have done so far, I think because the professional leagues have realized that (with the exception of things like NASCAR) its audiences are not that way (yet).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You certainly know your Dutch slogans. 🙂 And LOL, yeah, eating those tompouces is always an adventure.

      Interesting that the nationalism doesn’t extend to national sports in the US. The orange nationalism here only goes viral during international events, where ‘we’ like to stick out amongst other nations with all the orange. We’re a small country, so it quickly goes international here. When it’s just sports within the country, there is much less orange on display. I’m thinking with the US being so huge, there are less big time US international sporting events, other than maybe the Olympics. So, if most sporting is within the USA (NFL, NBA and such), I’m thinking it’s more about supporting the teams and not necessarily the nation.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Servetus

        The national sports teams all have their “patriotic” displays (national anthem, mostly) and there has been huge upset over the attempts led by Colin Kaepernick to use those as an opportunity for protest, but in general, I agree with you that the fact that they are not inter-country games (and that the most of US couldn’t give a s*** about (especially men’s) soccer) means that they don’t really generate political sentiment. My impression is that since the Cold War ended, Americans are only sort of marginally interested in the Olympics, but I could be overrating my own lack of interest.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Servetus

            I had it memorized for all the instruments I played in high school marching band and pep bend, because we played it before every game! Frankly, I could stand to hear it a lot less. I think the constant playing makes it less special rather than more.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. That was a really interesting cultural lesson, I enjoyed reading and seeing the pictures, Esther. I share your general distrust of too much nationalism, especially when it comes to flag-waving. (You know why; you lived in Germany at a time when such nationalistic display was unthinkable.) And yet I do sometimes envy other nations who have a day in the year where they unashamedly celebrate their nation. It is like you say – togetherness. Allowing a huge group of people (= the ‘people’) to feel part of one coherent group. At least for one day. And to celebrate the place they live in. When I see the national holidays through your photos, or when I see Paddy’s Day in Ireland, I never feel that those are nationalistic displays in an imperialist or threatening way. It’s just people celebrating their nation – and all that is good about it. But well, it helps that those two nations, the Dutch and the Irish, are both not huge. They are not a threat. Other, larger nations are… Anyway, I enjoyed reading about it, so dank je wel!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alsjeblieft. 🙂
      There are downsides to even the joyous nationalism where certain groups will use it to exclude ‘outsiders’ but I do really enjoy the festive and partying spirit of it all. With the soccer thing the spirit can tend to become very arrogant (especially when playing the Germans) which I really don’t like. Then again, I do like that the colour is so defining that in international settings it is unmistakable where the fans come from. 🙂
      As one of our most legendary soccer players Johan Cruiff always used to say: “Elk voordeel heeft zijn nadeel.” (Each advantage has its disadvantage).


      1. True statement by Cruiff. Nationalism once was a somewhat progressive movement. It’s regrettable that pride in one’s own nation’s achievements seems to be inextricable linked to putting down others.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Just found the story. Oh dear! I know that metro route, I ride it occasionally although haven’t anymore since lockdown in March. I never get to the terminus, though, so didn’t know about the whale. How awesome that it was stopped like that (and no one but driver on the train who made it out safely).

      Liked by 2 people

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