Is Liberation Day nowadays just another reason for a party?

As I was celebrating King’s Day, dressed in the bright festival color of orange and surrounded by loud music, I found myself in a conversation regarding plans for another upcoming event – Bevrijdingsdag, or Liberation Day.

While my friends began to discuss whether the weather would be suitable for a barbeque or a festival, I started thinking that maybe we took a wrong turn in our understanding of the day. Is Liberation Day nowadays just another reason for a party, or can we still see it as an opportunity to remember, pay respect, and maybe reflect on the privileges we are surrounded by? 

In my attempt to understand it, I asked a Dutch friend about his thoughts on this topic. ‘In this generation, less and less people understand what the day is about’, he said. ‘If you don’t have a direct relation to it, such as a family member who fought in the war or got somehow affected by it, or your school or university doesn’t organize a memorial, it becomes just another day with another festival despite the loud ‘shoutout for Liberation’ from a DJ’. 

His honest response left me with an unsettling feeling. Doesn’t the peace we have here and now directly relate to the events back then? Could it be that the tone of fun we are setting for the 5th of May distracts us from the true meaning of the event? Is there a way we could still pay tribute with more respect and thought behind it? 

Could it be that the tone of fun we are setting for the 5th of May distracts us from the true meaning of the event?

Liberation and freedom are often celebrated in a big and loud way. Therefore, a joyful event like a festival embodies what the day is for, especially when it is not monetized. Yet, a quieter, more intimate event would give space, especially to young people, to slow down, reflect, and be thankful. Both have equal importance. 

Of course, the two minutes of silence on May 4th at 8 p.m. offers a solution for the respectful tone of Remembrance and Liberation Day. Nevertheless, since it is barely mentioned unless you have a Dutch grandparent or watch Dutch TV, the chances of younger people remembering the moment of silence are quite slim. Yet the advertisements on every corner will not let anyone forget about the festival. 

I believe on days like these it is essential to slow down and think. To think of ancestors who might have been affected by the war, to think and thank people who made it possible to have the privilege of dancing under a peaceful sky, and most importantly, to think and understand why remembering is so important.

Because if we don’t remember, we might take the present as a given, and when that happens, all the privileges of ‘not remembering to remember’ could slip away. 

LIZA KOLOMIIETS

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