Originally Hartjesdag (Day of Hearts) was a festival celebrated on the third Monday in August in the areas of Haarlem and Bloemendaal and in various parts of Amsterdam, particularly around the Haarlemmerplein, in the Jordaan, and on Zeedijk. On Hartjesdag fires were kindled and children collected money. Later it developed itself into a type of cross-dressing carnival, where men dressed as women, and women dressed as men. A typical scene was captured in the oil painting entitled Hartjesdag, by the artist Johan Braakensiek in 1926.
During the German occupation in 1942 the Hartjesdag became prohibited, and after the war it eventually became obsolete. In 1997 a local committee on Zeedijk, Amsterdam, decided to see if they could revive the tradition. Each year since then, the festival has flourished into a two-day event on the 3rd weekend in August.
Where the name Hartjesdag comes from is not clear. Probably it has arisen in the Middle Ages. It is suspected that the name is a bastardisation of ‘hertjesdag‘ (Deer Day). This was a festival where in the forests around Haarlem deer (herten) hunting could be done by the ordinary people, which was normally reserved for nobility. The deer were then taken to Amsterdam and roasted in the streets.
On Sunday evening it’s now ‘Night of Romance’, when at the bars and restaurants, but also in small theaters in the surrounding streets, live music is played and songs are sung. On Monday they start with a brunch for the people of the neighborhood, and the ones who feel part of the neighborhood (like me, and I live 4.5km on the other side of town). After brunch the ‘Hearts’ (people who normally don’t cross-dress) and ‘Queens’ (the ones who do!) can register to win a prize at the end of the day.
I was greeted by a creature looking as ‘Divine’ who knew me by name, and I didn’t know who he was. I do know now, and when he dares to do it, with consent of his wife, I can do it too… next year!
Here are some photos who were posted on Facebook, I thanked the photographers already. They are in random order, and will change place every time you open this page. Click on one and it will open in a new page, there you can scroll through them.