Flagday at Scheveningen

Scheveningen Travel Blog

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A choir at Flagday

Today we ( a friend and I) had a wonderful and sunny day at Scheveningen on Flagday!! On this day we celebrated the arrival of the first herring!! It's a very traditional feast which goes back to 1947 when it began.

Listen ....

 Herring, the sushi of Holland.

The passion for raw herring is one of the rare things that visitors to Holland (and, whisper it quietly, many Dutch people too) often fail to appreciate. Yet, while herring may lack the sophistication of sushi, it is similarly central to this country´s culture, and entwined with its history and custom. One ritual pertaining to herring is Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen.

Like so many other things in the Netherlands, the herring seems routine at first glance, with its indistinct size and shape and unceremonious manner of preparation and consumption.

The Keizerstraat
Scratch the surface, however, and you find a rich history and many exotic rituals connected to this fish. For instance, herring has traditionally been eaten salted in Holland; this includes a special gutting process which, according to tradition, was invented by Willem Beukelszoon in 1380. When herring is gutted, the pancreas is not removed, so that special pancreatic enzymes let the fish ripen. Yes, that sounds good doesn´t it!

The composition and taste of salted herring changes through the year, as the individual fish put on a layer of fat through the summer. Other traditional ways to prepare this Dutch staple food include pickling in vinegar and serving with pickles (in a so-called rolmops), and smoking. Smoked herring becomes red and was supposedly used to throw bloodhounds off the trail of fugitives in the old days; this is why a decoy from the main issue in a discussion, for example, is still called a red herring.

The old church of Scheveningen where I married back in 1989

Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen
Vlaggetjesdag (flag day) has celebrated the arrival of the first herring (Hollandse Nieuwe) in the southern coastal towns of Vlaardingen and Scheveningen for years. Hundreds of thousands of people gather in Scheveningen for the festivities, and the fishing boats are decorated especially for the occasion. In addition to the omnipresent herring, this day also features a number of activities unrelated to fish, for both young and old. In Scheveningen, the first barrel of herring is traditionally sold at an auction on the Thursday preceding the official Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen, and the proceeds go to charity.

During Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen, visitors are invited to watch spectacular demonstrations by rescue teams, participate in old Dutch children`s games, admire famous artists, watch the Royal Navy, tour boats and old fire engines, enjoy demonstrations of old crafts, watch famous chefs perform their magic, sing along with shanty choirs and enjoy the many colourful traditional costumes.

The old church of Scheveningen
Orchestras, bands, artists, artisans and old sailing luggers all contribute to the fun, which also includes miniature ships, sailing tours and sampling of all kinds of fish. And if visitors want a break from the action, they can always make a pit stop at one of the many sidewalk cafe´s or go exploring the historical Scheveningen village.

An ancient tradition
Vlaggetjesdag Scheveningen as such is not very old, it was only made official in 1947. The festive tradition around the beginning of herring season is much older, however. In the 18th century, the villages along the coast, including Scheveningen, were forbidden to gut the caught herring. Since herring was most appropriate for smoking around September, most fishing boats fished flatfish or round-bodied fish during a part of the summer so as to avoid a surplus of fresh herring.

a nice fair
Only eight or ten boats fished for herring in those days.

A poem from Scheveningen commemorating the departure of fishing boats on 14 September 1781, for instance, notes that there were only ten boats present. Stadtholder William V was present during the departure, as was customary for him on this day of the year. The poem notes that the fishermen were very appreciative of their princes gesture, and emphasises a number of familiar aspects. For instance, the boats would fly their flags, and two of the vessels would come back after sailing out to pay homage to the prince, both elements recognizable to us today. Finally, the best herring caught was for the ruler, very similar to the ceremony of reserving a koninginneharing for the Queen. A tradition that unfortunately does not exist anymore today.

a nice fair

Herring in Scheveningen
Fishermen from Scheveningen did not fish for herring much until the middle of the 19th century, the monopoly of gutting and salting being reserved for the cities along the river Meuse. Various small-scale festivities around the beginning of the herring season were recorded in the first half of the 20th century. Although photos from this era show harbours full of different boats, usually flying their festive pennants, this was by no means Vlaggetjesdag yet.

On 10 May 1947, however, the press reported that the fleet [was] ready. Hundreds of flags fluttered from the rigging of the luggers in Scheveningen yesterday. It was [Vlaggetjesdag]. This is the first time this word was used by the press, still carefully between quotation marks, for the beginning of the herring season at Scheveningen.

The old church of Scheveningen
This ceremony would soon develop into the Vlaggetjesdag that we all know and love today.

So, now you know everything about the traditonal Flagday, haha. My friend and I walked along the harbour and went for a boattrip with one of the ships of my uncle, he is the owner of one of the shipping companies at Scheveningen. It was a great day for it, not much wind and very sunny! We also went to the large fair which was in old scheveningen in the "Keizerstraat" and the "Badhuisstraat", There were several musicbands etc and we eat some surinam food, and later on cod parings hmmm on the harbour in the sunshine and watching people, WHAT A LOVELY DAY!!! Till the next time!!!

Petra2111 says:
hahahaha me too John, me too!!!!
Posted on: Nov 30, 2010
londonstudent says:
Raw herring *shudders* I did try it once, but never again!
Posted on: Nov 30, 2010
bernard69 says:
Very informative review Petra:)
Posted on: Jul 01, 2009
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A choir at Flagday
A choir at Flagday
The Keizerstraat
The Keizerstraat
The old church of Scheveningen whe…
The old church of Scheveningen wh…
The old church of Scheveningen
The old church of Scheveningen
a nice fair
a nice fair
a nice fair
a nice fair
The old church of Scheveningen
The old church of Scheveningen
a nice fair
a nice fair
The old church of Scheveningen
The old church of Scheveningen
The old church of Scheveningen
The old church of Scheveningen
The old church of Scheveningen
The old church of Scheveningen
The old church of Scheveningen
The old church of Scheveningen
a nice fair at the Keizerstraat
a nice fair at the "Keizerstraat"
a nice fair at the Keizerstraat
a nice fair at the "Keizerstraat"
a nice fair at the Keizerstraat
a nice fair at the "Keizerstraat"
a shanty choir
a shanty choir
important crossing at the Badhuis…
important crossing at the "Badhui…
trying out the first herring!! (no…
trying out the first herring!! (n…
The harbour of Scheveningen
The harbour of Scheveningen
The harbour of Scheveningen
The harbour of Scheveningen
The harbour of Scheveningen
The harbour of Scheveningen
traditional old dutch childrens g…
traditional old dutch children's …
old dutch traditional games
old dutch traditional games
traditional costume of Scheveningen
traditional costume of Scheveningen
traditional costume of Scheveningen
traditional costume of Scheveningen
traditional costume of Scheveningen
traditional costume of Scheveningen
the harbour
the harbour
traditional costume of Scheveningen
traditional costume of Scheveningen
the harbour
the harbour
an old warship
an old warship
the harbour
the harbour
a ship from oostende
a ship from oostende
What a great picture (NOT!!)
What a great picture (NOT!!)
a traditonal barrel organ
a traditonal barrel organ
very crowded
very crowded
three women who wear traditonal co…
three women who wear traditonal c…
nice lookout
nice lookout
cute little boats
cute little boats
Our favourite café at the harbour…
Our favourite café at the harbou…
italian icecream
italian icecream
great fish restaurant
great fish restaurant
nice restaurant
nice restaurant
another choir
another choir
speak for themselves
speak for themselves
nice balloons
nice balloons
here we went on board for a boattr…
here we went on board for a boatt…
cast off
cast off
and there we go!
and there we go!
and there we go!
and there we go!
the boattrip
the boattrip
the boattrip
the boattrip
the boattrip
the boattrip
fishing boat
fishing boat
the boattrip
the boattrip
the boattrip
the boattrip
cleaning the boat
cleaning the boat
the boattrip
the boattrip
the marina
the marina
you also can go fishing for a day …
you also can go fishing for a day…
the marina
the marina
a monument
a monument
scheveningen got two harbours
scheveningen got two harbours
the other harbour
the other harbour
traditonal fishing boats
traditonal fishing boats
beautiful ship
beautiful ship
sailinglessons
sailinglessons
beautiful sailboat
beautiful sailboat
Nice!!
Nice!!
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
leaving the harbour
the old jetty/pier
the old jetty/pier
other shipping company
other shipping company
the new jetty/pier
the new jetty/pier
great fun at sea
great fun at sea
great fun at sea
great fun at sea
great fun at sea
great fun at sea
making pictures
making pictures
what a wonderful sight
what a wonderful sight
oeps, not a good one
oeps, not a good one
me having great fun at sea
me having great fun at sea
Well, nice to know that this is on…
Well, nice to know that this is o…
Nice view on the coast of Scheveni…
Nice view on the coast of Scheven…
The Pier
The Pier
view on the coast
view on the coast
view on the coast
view on the coast
view on the coast
view on the coast
the new jetty/pier.
Back in the h…
the new jetty/pier. Back in the …
last view on the coast
last view on the coast
the old jetty/pier
the old jetty/pier
Back in the harbour!
Back in the harbour!
Back in the harbour!
Back in the harbour!
Nice!!
Nice!!
rescue boat
rescue boat
they have fun watching all the boa…
they have fun watching all the bo…
Back in the harbour!
Back in the harbour!
the fish auction
the fish auction
almost there!
almost there!
walking bands
walking bands
nice view on the harbour
nice view on the harbour
nice view on the harbour
nice view on the harbour
nice view on the harbour
nice view on the harbour
Scheveningen
photo by: EmyG