The symbol of the Four Days Marches
Nijmegen, the eldest city in the Netherlands, renames the St. Annastraat to Via Gladiola once a year and on that day welcomes the walkers on the last day of the Four Days Marches as true heroes. Traditionally, the spectators hand out gladioli to the walkers.
Why the gladiolus on Friday?
The Dutch have a saying, roughly translated, ‘death or the gladioli', meaning all or nothing. It is thought that this phrase was being chanted in the arena in Roman times by the frantic spectators on the stands who were watching the gladiators fight each other to the death in a thrilling sword fight. After a heroic fight the victor was buried in gladioli by the cheering crowds. So, why the gladiolus? The name is derived from the Latin word ‘gladius' meaning sword, after the sword-like shape of the flower. The gladiolus has become a sign of strength and victory; a flower earned after a great achievement.
Several millennia later the expression has been annexed by the Four Days Marches. And when they are walking on the St. Annastraat - or rather the Via Gladiola - being cheered on by the spectators, the walkers of the Four Days Marches are in fact as heroic as the gladiators once were.