Category Archives: Traditions

Day Of Hearts… I Love You!

HartjesdagOriginally 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.

May 5, 71 years later


The Netherlands is the only country in Europe that commemorates the victims of the Second World War and celebrates its liberation on two separate but consecutive days. We remember the Dutch victims of wartime violence on May 4, and on May 5 we celebrate our freedom.

The fact that the Netherlands observes Remembrance Day and celebrates Liberation Day, the day on which the German army capitulated, on two separate days is primarily the result of the strong influence that former members of the resistance had in Dutch society directly after the Second World War. The Dutch resistance had already gained considerable authority during the war. After the country had been liberated, the former resistance was relatively well organized and prominently represented in government circles. The most important reason why the national commemoration of Remembrance Day takes place on May 4 and not on May 5 is that directly after the Second World War, both the survivors and the bereaved in the former resistance circles found it inappropriate to mourn the victims of war and to celebrate the liberation on the same day. In their view, the emotions that went along with both sets of memories were incompatible. As the Netherlands had not played an active role in the First World War, the country did not already have a tradition of commemoration in the mid-1940s. Whereas most other European countries had commemoration traditions of a military character stemming from the First World War, the Netherlands was free to commemorate and celebrate in its own distinct manner.

The Dutch tradition of remembrance and celebration that developed in response to the Second World War had a primarily local character. In all Dutch cities and villages, local committees, organizations, associations or municipal officials organize a remembrance ceremony on May 4 or on another day in connection with the local war history and on May 5 there is often a celebration in honor of the liberation and freedom. In addition to all the local groups, there are also numerous other organizations in the Netherlands founded by people who have been affected by wars. They often organize their own ceremonies of remembrance in connection with various different historical events. For example commemorations are organized in reference to (the liberation of) various extermination and concentration camps, such as those in Mauthausen, Auschwitz and Ravensbruck, where Dutch citizens were killed. While other gatherings commemorate specific events such as the bombardment of Rotterdam or the massive razzias in Putten, in the northeast of the Netherlands. The Netherlands also commemorates the war in its former colony the Dutch East Indies and the end of the Second World War on August 15. And each year the Auschwitz Committee organizes the Holocaust/Auschwitz commemoration on the last Sunday in January.

So besides May 4 and 5, there are over 40 other occasions throughout the year when victims are remembered and survivors and people concerned get together to commemorate. All these different experiences and stories converge on May 4. On that day, at 8pm, the entire country – including those who experienced the war first hand and everyone else who recognizes the civic importance of remembering – commemorates the victims of wartime violence in silence.

New Painting by Piet Mondrian Discovered

In the depot of Stedelijk Museum (Museum of Modern Art) in Amsterdam a long-lost masterpiece by Piet Mondriaan was discovered. Specialists could trace it back in their books to 1945, when it came from Mondrian’s estate in New York to Amsterdam. It is known by its name Wall Street Boogie Woogie, a painting in the style of Victory Boogie Woogie, but in this case it is finished.

Piet Mondrian – Wall Street Boogie Woogie 1942
Piet Mondrian – Victory Boogie Woogie 1942-1944

It will be on show for a short time only, because the art specialists need to do more research on this unique painting. For all they know it’s one of the first painted panels with acrylic paint. US company Permanent Pigments (nowadays know as Liquitex) came especially for the artist with this paint on the market.

The other well known painting, Victory Boogie Woogie was still done in leftover oils. Wall Street Boogie Woogie can be seen in the main hall of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange on Damrak, tomorrow, doors open at 9 o’clock  (AM).

Cuypers Passage @ Amsterdam Central Station

The Cuypers Passage is the name of the new tunnel at Amsterdam Central Station that connects the city and the waters of the IJ-waterway. Since the end of 2015 it has been used by large numbers of cyclists, some 15,000 daily, and pedestrians 24 hours a day. This ‘slow traffic corridor’ was exactly what many users of the city felt was lacking. What once was by necessity a left or right turn is now, at long last, straight ahead. The tunnel is clad on one side by nearly 80,000 Delft Blue tiles: a true Dutch spectacle at a central spot in Amsterdam.

The tunnel is 110 metres long, ten metres wide and three metres high. Its design makes a clear division between the two modes of travel. By making the pedestrian level appreciably higher than the cycleway, pedestrians know where they have to be and feel safe there. Cyclists enjoy the spatial sensation of a rapid through route, accompanied by a continuous run of LED lamps along the raised edge of the footpath. The pedestrian path has a smooth finish of handmade glazed ceramic tiles. The cycleway by contrast has a rougher, open finish of black sound-absorbing asphalt and steel gratings. This is to enhance user comfort, given the tunnel’s concrete structure and great length. The gratings are impossible to litter with posters and flyers and their open structure reduces the risk of graffiti.

Along the footpath wall is a tile tableau designed by Irma Boom Office. The design steps off from a restored work by the Rotterdam tile painter Cornelis Boumeester (1652-1733). His tile panel depicting the Warship Rotterdam and the Herring Fleet is in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Irma Boom replaced the original crest on the stern with the Amsterdam coat of arms. The cyclist or pedestrian leaves the old historic part of Amsterdam through Cuyperspassage and heads towards ‘new Amsterdam’ in the north, or vice versa. The tableau fades away towards the IJ-river, the lines of the original work gradually dissolving. Then it builds up again in an abstract form from light to dark blue, as if encouraging cyclists to slow down as the ferry comes into view. Its drawn lines and pixels also visualize the transition in art from the old to the new. The ceramic company, Royal Tichelaar Makkum, spent five years making the 46,000 wall tiles for the tableau, as well as 33,000 floor tiles, in the traditional Dutch tile size of 13 x 13 cm. In it, we see large and small merchant vessels, herring busses with nets in place, churning waves, gulls. The whole recalls old kitchens in Amsterdam canal houses, so that the tunnel is experienced as a safe place – as an urban room.

The Cuyperspassage is part of the overall master plan for Amsterdam Central Station – a project by Benthem Crouwel Architects in collaboration with Irma Boom , commissioned by the Municipality of Amsterdam, ProRail and Nederlandse Spoorwegen.

Silent Crowds On Kalverstraat

The plaque on Kalverstraat was placed in 2001 in memory of the Miracle of Amsterdam and Heilige Stede (Holy Place).
The plaque on Kalverstraat was placed in 2001 in memory of the Miracle of Amsterdam and Heilige Stede (Holy Place).

Every day the eyes of shoppers are focused on the windows in the main shopping street, Kalverstraat. Once a year, this is not the case during the Silent Procession. Then thousands of eyes do not watch the window of Kalverstraat 87, but the lantern and on the plaque above the storefront. The plaque was placed in 2001 in memory of the Miracle of Amsterdam and Heilige Stede (Holy Place).

On the night of March 15 to 16 is the 671st anniversary of the Miracle of Amsterdam which took place on this address in Kalverstraat. A dying man, bearing the last rites, threw up a wafer, which was thrown into the fire, but the wafer did not burn. The wafer was taken to the Old Church, but it miraculously returned to Kalverstraat. This was repeated once more. The Amsterdam Miracle was born.

Detail of the miracle of the Heilige Stede, the miracle of the undigested wafer - 1505-1518 by Jacob Cornelisz. Oostsanen at Amsterdam Museum
Detail of the miracle of the Heilige Stede, the miracle of the undigested wafer – 1505-1518 by Jacob Cornelisz. Oostsanen at Amsterdam Museum

The miracle of the wafer was led to start a chapel, the Chapel of the Heilige Stede. It was inaugurated already in 1347. A stream of pilgrims came, there were two processions annually and the small chapel was continuously expanded and enlarged over time. The wafer continued, according to tradition, preserved its miraculous power. When the chapel fell victim to the city fires of 1421 and 1452, the wafer remained undamaged.

Amsterdam remained a pilgrimage town until 1578 and the Chapel Heilige Stede stood amids the religious life. In that year, however, the old Catholic faith was pushed aside and the city council chose for Protestantism. Monasteries were confiscated, churches were stripped of their saints, altars and decorations. The Chapel Heilige Stede was renamed Nieuwezijds Chapel (New Side Chapel) and continued in use as a Protestant church until 1908. Then the curtain fell. The old building was demolished to the last stone in its place came a new chapel. They only preserved the floor with its old gravestones.

Silent Procession in 2012 with the lantern on Kalverstraat
Silent Procession in 2012 with the lantern on Kalverstraat

The use for Protestant services and the eventual demolition of the chapel did not mean that the people forgot the Miracle. In 1881, on the initiative of a few individuals, people walked in silence the medieval sacrament processions. Within a few years this initiative had grown into a rapidly growing movement known as the Company of the Silent Procession. Every year in March, the company organizes the Silent Procession with thousands of Catholic pilgrims from the Netherlands to Amsterdam. This Saturday night, March 12 to 13, they silently commemorate the Miracle of Amsterdam.

New Side Chapel around 1600
New Side Chapel around 1600
New Side Chapel before 1908
New Side Chapel before 1908
New Side Chapel demolished. Some of parts of the pillars are in use in a small park near my home
New Side Chapel demolished. Some of parts of the pillars are in use in a small park near my home

Festive Dish

Just have a PB&J tonight, there’s enough to eat and drink before the clock strikes midnight, and the red ball drops on Times Square in New York. On this side of the Big Pond, we’re 6 hours ahead of you, all’s well and the Year started with a bang.

New beginnings, fresh starts, reaffirmation of love and promises for a brighter future all come to mind as we ring in a New Year. There are the superficial, yet purposeful, promises we make to ourselves. We resolve to get in shape, lose weight, improve career paths, and the like. Then, there are the heartfelt promises we make to others, whether out loud or in our minds. We want to care more, express love more, reverse bad feelings in old relationships or seek out new loving relationships. We try our very best to put these desires into words…