Dutch Holidays

You might already have noticed it, the Dutch celebrate different holidays than you do. The Dutch do celebrate some of them the same as you know, others are not celebrated at all and they even have their own ones. In the holiday season now, this is even more visible. Who is that Santa Claus like man? Why did I not see that many kids on the street during Halloween? In this blog post we are going to make a small (traditional) Dutch Holiday season calendar.


11th of November – Sint Maarten

Traditionally the Dutch do not celebrate Halloween, instead they have something similar, namely Sint Maarten. On this day children go on the street with a Lampion across some houses. There they sing ‘Sint-maarten’ songs in the hope to get some candy. This festivity is so successful in the Netherlands because it has no political or religious origin, so everyone could join this event. Side events to Sint-Maarten are bonfires and of course dinners together.


11th of November – Start of the Carnaval Season

What, Carnaval already in November?! I thought it was just a few days in February… Yes some Dutch people start early celebrating Carnaval. On this 11th of November the season starts by presenting the new Prince Carnaval of the village or City for that season. This is on this day, because 11 is known as the number of the jokers, so the 11th of the 11th month fits perfect in the Carnaval tradition, which is a festivity about being crazy and different than you are normally. From this day onwards there are weekly carnaval events until the 5 days of Carnaval in February. We will elaborate more on Carnaval and it’s tradition in a blog post by that time.


5th of December – Sinterklaas

This is one of the main festivities in the Netherlands and already celebrated for ages. History says there was a Bisschop of Myra in the 3th Century, who was very good for the children. As a saint he is the patron of children. On the 5th of December people remember him. From the Middle Ages onwards people added more and more to this day. At some point parents started giving their children small presents and candy on this day. They do this as if Sinterklaas (person inspired by the Bishop of Myra) comes to their house while the children are asleep and then drops of the presents in their shoes. The next morning they find these.
At the present day Sinterklaas is arriving in the Netherlands on a boat somewhere halfway November. From then on Sinterklaas and his helpers are visiting children at home and at schools to tell them how well (or not so) they behaved the last year and if they behaved well then they get a small present. Then on the 5th of December, Sinterklaas’ birthday, he and his helpers visit or drop of a bag full of presents at people’s houses. Only if a child was naughty during the year they will be put in that bag and taken on the boat to Sinterklaas’ toy factory in Spain, the story says.


25th of December – Christmas

Christmas is in the Netherlands more a traditional religious Holiday. On Christmas Eve a lot of Dutch people go to the church to celebrate the birth of Jesus. A lot of these masses are late in the evening. Before this people have a small dinner together. In the morning of Christmas day people have a nice breakfast together. A lot of people use this day to visit their family and have dinner together in the evening. On the 26th, Second Christmas Day in the Netherlands, people visit the other part of their family. Also shopping is a popular activity on this day. In the Netherlands Santa Claus and getting presents from him is not really a thing, because they have Sinterklaas.


31st of December – New Years Eve

In the Netherlands New Year is on the 1st of January and it is celebrated mostly as in the rest of the world. However, there are a few things we do in the Netherlands which are maybe not so normal for the rest of the world. First, it is allowed to light your own fireworks. There are laws on this, but everyone can buy (small) fireworks in the Netherlands and light this on the street on the 31st of December from 6pm-2am. This means there are just a few big shows in the Dutch Cities, only the bigger cities, such as Amsterdam and Rotterdam have one. Next to this, the Dutch have the tradition to take a dive on the 1st of January. In Scheveningen the biggest New Years Dive is held, here a few thousand people participate in the dive in the North Sea, which is only a few degrees then. Also on other places in the Netherlands, also in Tilburg, these dives are held. After being in this cold water for a few minutes people warm themselves with a cup of hot chocolate.

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