Student - May 12, 2011

Liberation Day through foreign eyes

Liberation Day is a major festivity in the Netherlands. But what do foreign students think of the way the Dutch celebrate their freedom? We asked a student from China, Derek Pan, to attend Liberation Day in Wageningen and report back to us. 'If only Chinese veterans were also in this procession.'

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I was moved by the remembrance ceremony in Amsterdam on May 4 th . But I thought, that's enough. Why do the Dutch have a Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day) as well? At first glance, it's nothing but an extension of Queen's Day. Is that true? With many doubts, I jumped into the crowds and started my liberation journey.

13.45 - Plantsoen-Markt-Torckpark
Soon I find that all the activities come down to one theme: freedom. You can watch comic shows, draw self-portraits or do nothing but lie in the sun. At the Market, Ilse de Lange is performing. It is my first time to see so many people gathering there. Luckily I can enjoy her songs from the upstairs of the Turkish café Ilayda, otherwise I might have drowned in the ocean of the crowd.
At Torckpark, away from the bustle of the centre, you can enjoy the acrobatics and open-air theatre, like an inner-city Shangri-la. I meet a young guy from Amsterdam who tells me he comes here every year. 'Lots of good music here,' he says. 'That's it? No other reason?' I ask him. 'That's it,' he gave a shrug, 'just for fun.' Not sure whether he is sober or not, but I am not surprised by his reply. I just hope not all the Dutch have the same answer.
 
16.00 - 5 Mei Plein
The climax of Liberation Day is the defilé (a French word for procession). After a brief opening ceremony, the ex-military parade begins. Aircraft flash past overhead, leaving beautiful contrails behind in the blue sky. Convoys of vehicles and veterans pass by Hotel de Wereld one after another. Spectators on both sides of the street acclaim their heroes. But I don't take it too seriously. Because compared with Russian army parade at Red Square every year on 9 th May, this defilé is more like a show in Madurodam. Nevertheless, I feel genuinely happy to see these old veterans receiving applause and tributes along the route of the parade. Seeing the blissful smiles on their faces, I can't help but think of some people in China: if only Chinese veterans were also in this procession, especially those who participated in the eight-year War of Resistance against Japan during WWⅡ. Forgive my patriotism; I just love my motherland!

17.50 - De Dreijen
After a long procession, the veterans sit down, take a drink with old friends or reminisce about their glorious days. Interestingly, I encounter a veteran from the artillery, Mr. Jakobus. He served with the last troops in New Guinea in 1962. But it is not his war epic but his recent romance that grabs my attention: he's in love with a 20-something Chinese girl in China! She's a teacher in a remote village and they are looking for funding to maintain the school. Wish them good luck!

18.15 - Stadsbrink
How will Liberation Day be twenty years from now? Just hope people still understand it means more than parties and beers. Back to the bus station, a band on the stage near KSV is playing "Het is een nacht" in a rock version. What a perfect song to end the day with.

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