Dutch Holidays: When are they and how are they celebrated?

Categorie: Cultural

Are you curious to know what the major celebrations are in the Netherlands? To make sure that you don’t miss out on some of the important celebrations, we made a list with some of these celebrations, what they mean and how they are celebrated.

Easter

Easter is a religious holiday celebrated in the spring. This holiday celebration is spanned over two days, namely the first and second day of Easter. For Christians, Easter commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even though the Easter celebration is primarily seen as a religious celebration, it is not only celebrated by Christians. A big part of the Dutch population marries food and drinks to this holiday. The non-religious celebrate this with a rich breakfast, comprised of boiled or chocolate eggs, paired with a delicious Easter bread.

Easter is also a time where it is customary to ‘eat-out’. Restaurants and lunch spots take the time to organize special Easter brunches. Do you have kids? You won’t be able to escape the traditional egg hunt. How it works is that parents hide small chocolate eggs both inside and outside of the house; in the garden. Kids, ready to start the egg hunt, head out on the much-anticipated hunt. Finally, the person who collects the most Easter eggs, wins!

Date: 12th of April

King’s day

One of the most celebrated days in the Netherlands is King’s day. During King’s day, the whole population takes on to celebrate the birthday of the King; Willem Alexander. On the day of the celebration, the whole Netherlands is “painted” orange. So, don’t forget to put on your best orange outfit and join this celebration the Dutch way! On King's Day, King Willem-Alexander and his family, together with other members of the Royal Family, visit a municipality with a center function in the region. The day is regionally celebrated with musical performances, games and for the true party animals the celebrations begins on King’s night (the evening before King’s day). And what is a King’s day celebration without the orange Tompouce? This is a typical pastry that is consumed during King’s day.

Date: 27th of April

Liberation day

Liberation day is a public holiday that commemorates the end of Nazi Germany occupation during the Second World War. On this day, the whole country reflects on the value of freedom, democracy and human right. In the big cities, freedom is celebrated on and around large stages. The day before, on the 4th of May, there are commemorations at local war memorials in all municipalities in the Netherlands. At 20:00 everyone stops for two minutes to reflect on all Dutch victims who died during The Second World War and other wars.

Date: 4th and 5th of May

Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas day is officially celebrated in the Netherlands on the 5th of December. However, this celebration starts in November, when Saint Nicholas arrives in the Netherlands. Children are encouraged to leave a shoe out for Saint Nicholas. They believe that at night, when they are asleep, Saint Nicholas comes by on his white horse named Amerigo, and leaves sweets or presents.

This festivity is synonymous to traditional sweets such as pepernoot, taaitaai, chocolate letters and marzipan. St. Nicholas is also widely celebrated in many primary schools in the Netherlands. On this day, students at the elementary school patiently wait for Saint and his pietes to then open the gifts they received and sing traditional Saint Nicholas songs. In schools and in families where children are old and wise enough to understand that Saint Nicholas and his pieten do not really exist, a version of Secret Santa called “lootjes trekken” is played.

Date: 5th of December

Christmas

Christmas in the Netherlands is not as widely celebrated, but it is catching on. Originally, in the Netherlands, the celebration of Christmas was tied to Christianity. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Some people go to the church and celebrate the rest of the day with friends and family. Others stay home and celebrate in their private circle. On the 1st an 2nd day of Christmas it is common to set the table with all the bells and whistles and to eat…a lot. Dutch people also enjoy their gourmets, especially during Christmas. In the middle of the table they place a large, hot plate where everyone can cook their own food.

Nowadays, almost every resident in the Netherlands has a Christmas tree in their house. The tree is decorated with lights, garlands, other Christmas ornaments and not to mention a peak. Gifts are also exchanged on the day of.

Date: 25th and 26th of December

New years

And finally, New Year’s Eve and New Year. In the Netherlands it is tradition to celebrate the 31st of December with family and friends. Often, this is at an agreed upon person’s place. Traditional snacks such as ‘oliebollen’ and apple fritters are served. At exactly twelve o’clock at night, fireworks are set off and champagne is toasted. Some cities in the Netherlands such as Rotterdam and Amsterdam, celebrate New Year's Eve on a large square. When the clock strikes twelve, the city's fireworks go off. A great sight to see.

Date: 31st of December and 1st of January

Put on your party hat and immerse yourself in the Dutch culture. It is special to experience that a country, in which so many different cultures come together, is completely united during most of these celebrations.

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