British veteran, 96, starts off Liberation Day celebrations

May 5, 2023  -The Netherlands celebrates the end of World War II on Friday with parties, festivals and a special ‘freedom soup’, but the KNMI weather bureau has warned that thunderstorms could disrupt the festivities at times.

The day will be warm with sunny spells, but thunderstorms bringing hail and strong winds are set to pass over the Netherlands during the afternoon and early evening, the KNMI said. It has issued a code yellow weather warning. The celebrations started in Wageningen just after midnight when 96-year-old British veteran Marie Scott and mayor Floor Vermeulen lit the Freedom Flame. The Germans signed the capitulation order in the Gelderland town order on May 5, 1945. Scott worked in the British army communications department in Portsmouth and is one of 16 British veterans who have come to the Netherlands for the local ceremony. In total, some 1,500 Dutch and other veterans will take part in the traditional march past in Wageningen shortly after midday.

From Wageningen the flame is taken by relay to the 14 locations nationwide where official freedom festivals are being held. In total, some 1,700 runners from 97 different local councils are taking part in the run. At midday former Belgian prime minister and European Council chairman Herman Van Rompuy will give the traditional May 5 reading in Zwolle, Overijssel.

That is also the start sign for the 14 formal Liberation Day festivals: in Zwolle, Leeuwarden, Assen, Almere, Utrecht, Rotterdam, The Hague, Amsterdam, Haarlem, Wageningen, The Hague, Roermond and Vlissingen. This year’s festival ambassadors are Tabitha, Froukje en MEAU, who will visit all 14 events by helicopter between them. Festivals are traditionally free but are struggling financially and have appealed for more local authority support to keep them going in future years.

A relatively new addition to the day are the ‘freedom meals’, held at a wide variety of locations nationwide and with a special ‘freedom soup’ on the menu. Find the recipe here. The celebrations will end with the traditional May 5 concert on the Amstel river in Amsterdam, which will broadcast live on television and attended by king Willem-Alexander and queen Máxima. Liberation Day is a national holiday like New Year’s Day and King’s Day but in most pay and conditions agreements is only a paid day off work once every five years. However, civil servants are mainly free and schools are closed. Shops can open if they chose to do so.

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