Although American Field Service student Julie Kleijweg, 19, of Voorburg, Netherlands, is several time zones and 4,456 miles from home, she took time Wednesday to celebrate King’s Day while attending State Fair Community College.
Kleijweg, who is staying in the home of Gary and Debbie Noland, said Dutch people celebrate their King’s birthday by taking off of work and school. Although Kleijweg attended college Wednesday, she brought along her county’s flag. To combine American and Dutch traditions, she purchased donuts from Papa Jake’s Donut Shop and topped them with traditional Dutch orange frosting and a flag from the Netherlands.
The day celebrates King Willem Alexander van Oranje-Nassau’s birthday. The country celebrates with the color orange, special foods and a nationwide garage-type sale.
“Because he’s called van Oranje or from Orange we all wear orange clothes,” she said. “We all spray our hair orange, we have orange pastries. Everything is orange.”
The Dutch enjoy selling items during the day also.
“We have flea markets all around the Netherlands,” she said. “Everybody goes on the street to either buy or sell.”
She added that statistics said one out of five Dutch people plan to go out on the street to sell items.
“It’s the only day the Dutch government allows you to sell stuff on the street without a permit or without paying taxes,” she said.
On King’s Day, Kleijweg, a Beatles fan, and her father, Hans Kleijweg, usually search for old records to purchase.
“My dad has about 1,000 records,” she said. “I have some too, and five record players.”
When she’s home, Kleijweg and her mother Eveline Busch enjoy baking together for King’s Day. Last year they made an orange pie.
“We glazed it with white and topped it with strawberries and blueberries, because our national colors are red, white and blue,” she said. “When you sliced it, it was orange on the inside.
“Sometimes my mom makes a Dutch apple pie,” she added. “We have certain sausages (and) little cubes of cheese. We’re a cheese country. In the Netherlands I eat cheese every day, it’s my bread.”
In 1885, because the monarchy at the time was unpopular, the celebration was used to promote Dutch unity. The day was set aside to celebrate King William III’s birthday. He wasn’t happy with the idea, but his daughter Wilhelmina, 5, was, so the day became known as Princess’s Day.
Wilhelmina eventually became the Queen in 1890 and the day was changed to Queen’s Day. Since that time, several Queens have reigned in the Netherlands. King Willem Alexander took the throne three years ago and the day of celebration was changed to King’s Day.
Kleijweg said she decided to become an AFS student because her father was in the program 40 years ago. He was an AFS student for the school year of 1977-78 in Taylorville, Illinois.
“My dad participated in the high school program,” she said. “It was like the best year of his life. He never stopped talking about it.”
She said she was too old to participate in the high school program, but went through a college program.
“I like it,” she said of Sedalia and SFCC. “I like the campus and I like the people here.”
When Kleijweg goes back home she will miss the “American spirit.”
“Everybody’s just so proud of their county and its people,” she noted. “I just love certain things about America that we don’t have at home.”
The Netherlands is far more crowded than many places in America. Kleijweg said she enjoys the idea of houses with “big” yards and gardens and that most Americans have a private vehicle.
“I absolutely love that freedom,” she added.
She feels that coming to America has helped her grow in maturity.
“I’ve become more independent,” Kleijweg noted. “More mature.”
Independence has helped her become more self-assured.
“Before this year, I felt like I was pretty grown-up, but now when I look back it’s like ‘wow!’” she said. “Actually, compared to now I was a child. I had to make a lot of decisions and do it all by myself.”
Kleijweg will return to the Netherlands June 17 where she will study architecture in the fall at the The Hague University.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss; photos by Faith Bemiss | Democrat