Dutch King's Christmas speech 2017: Full text

King Willem-Alexander giving his Christmas speech for 2017 from the Eikenhorst palace in Wassenaar
King Willem-Alexander giving his Christmas speech for 2017 from the Eikenhorst palace in Wassenaar. Photo: RVD - Frank van Beek

In his annual Christmas speech, King Willem-Alexander called on the people of the Netherlands not to get caught up in their own little worlds. But instead to work towards forming a stronger community. The full text of his speech, given from the Eikenhorst palace in Wassenaar, can be found below:

Healthily turning fifty and being able to celebrate it with many people together is a fantastic gift. I am grateful that I could experience this this year.

Like most people, I look back at the many beautiful moments at the end of the year. And at times of sadness and loss. Because there were certainly these for my wife and me too. 

I also think back to the upheaval that I saw on Sint Maarten, Saba and Sint Eustatius, where natural violence literally turned the lives of tens of thousands of inhabitants of our Kingdom upside down. And to the courageous efforts of reconstructions.

Images and stories that do not let me go.

The small and personal touches with the big and the common at Christmas. These are days in which we seek shelter, at home or with family and friends. For a moment locking out the uncertain world. Nothing else in the head than Silent Night or the Top 2000.

But no matter how much we comfortably pull back into our own circle, the outside world stirs itself beyond the windows. The big world behind the curtains is always audible and tangible and imposes itself on us, sometimes frightening, sometimes inviting. 

"I proclaim to you great joy that will come to all the people", says the angel to the shepherds. A proclamation to "all the people"... Christmas connects us emphatically with each other. 

That encourages us to think about how we stand in life ourselves. Is it: everyone for himself and God for us all? Or do we ourselves have an active role in a larger whole. And if so: which one?

It is not always easy to continue to believe in the community that we form together. Not at all in a country with as much diversity as ours. A country of free people in which the answer to the question 'who am I?' never completely coincides with the answer to the question 'who are we?'.

How can we live with those differences without indifference? Little tempting is a society in which more and more people withdraw into their own room, without realization of the house that we share together.

It seems increasingly difficult to meet each other in daily life. The places where very different people have traditionally encountered each other - church, office, cafe, sports club, school - are losing that connecting function more and more. Perhaps only the hospital is still a place where you can come into contact with people with a different background and lifestyle.

Our communication via the internet offers fantastic possibilities, but does not automatically offer an open window to the world. It is often difficult to distinguish facts and fabrications from each other.

Nuance and empathy seem to be in jeopardy from the start, and Twitter sometimes makes the debate bitter. More and more people prefer to keep their digital doors closed and only take note of ideas that confirm their group feeling and opinion. 

With all this something essential can be lost. 

Three months ago my wife and I attended a dance performance by one of the greatest artists of our country: Hans van Manen. He turned 85 years young this year. His statement is that 'for human kind curiosity is extremely important'.

Curiosity about the world behind the curtains. It is something I also hear a lot in conversations with people who are active in volunteering. They see their world grow in contact with strangers. Often there turns out to be a lot in common.

Perhaps this is the beginning of an answer. Not looking for a wider me, but for a bigger us.

That search for a bigger us has always been a driving force in the history of our country and our democracy. It is not simple. It often happens with fits and starts and it requires followers who continue to fight against the oppression.

A hundred years ago, in 1917, there was a breakthrough in a battle that had kept our country divided for a long time. Special education was given an equal position and the right to vote was extended to all men.

Women had to wait another two years before they could vote. That it eventually came was partly thanks to Aletta Jacobs. For more than 35 years - half a human life - she worked for that. Se celebrated the victory with conciliatory words. 

"Only by persuasion we have gained ground inch by inch, until finally the fear of the new had to surrender."

Inch by inch. This is how improvements are made. This way a bigger we can arise. Not only in the world and in our country, but also very close in our own neighborhood. 

The old Christmas song leaves no doubt that we belong together and are connected to each other. 

A child is born on earth

He came to the earth for us all.

At Christmas, something very big appears to us as something very small. A Child is born. A child, without words, without guilt, without anger and without distrust. It offers us a new beginning. Our own lives are included in a larger context of hope and peace, in which we ourselves have a role - however small - to play. 

I wish you all - wherever you are and whatever your personal circumstances are - a blessed Christmas. 

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