Christmas customs in the Netherlands are a distinctive and significant celebration of the holiday’s secular and spiritual aspects. Two separate festivals within the season, both of which are events that anybody can enjoy, serve as the culmination of weeks of festivities. Here are interesting things about Christmas in the Netherlands that will surprise you.
8 Unique Things That Make Christmas In The Netherlands More Special
Sinterklaas First, Then Christmas In The Netherlands
Every year on December 5, Sinterklaas Avond, also known as St. Nicholas Eve, is observed. This day is regarded as St. Nicholas’ birthday eve. Sinterklaas visits every child’s house in the Netherlands on this eve and leaves them with little gifts and goodies to enjoy. Santa Claus and Sinterklaas are similar, yet they are not the same. The Dutch regard Sinterklaas as a different individual from Santa Claus, whom they refer to as Kerstman, and who has a very different appearance from the cheery man represented in western culture (as noted in the links above). Tall and lean, Sinterklaas is dressed in dark crimson robes and a cap resembling a bishop’s. People depicted him as old and with a long white beard.
The first Saturday after November 11 is when Sinterklaas Avond celebrations officially start, which is many weeks before December 5. At the start of the holiday season, Sinterklaas sails in on a steamer from what is maybe his home in Madrid, Spain. In general, there are huge celebrations to mark his arrival in Amsterdam and other port cities, including parades, church bell ringing, and kid-friendly events.
In addition, for Sinterklaas’s horse, children in the Netherlands load their shoes with hay, carrots, and candy. The children’s gifts have taken the place of the horse treats in the morning.
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No Christmas Trees In The Netherlands Till After Sinterklaas
Christmas trees aren’t traditionally set up in the Netherlands until after Sinterklaas, but many Americans will do so around Thanksgiving or even sooner. So wait until December 7th to see decorated halls.
Christmas Day and Second Christmas Day In The Netherlands
In the Netherlands, December 25, also known as Eerste Kerstdag, is still a holiday. But since Sinterklaas Avond is the day when the Dutch exchange most gifts, this is a day for solemn church services and traditional family dinners. Christmas Day is a time for family get-togethers and delectable meals, including festive breakfasts and elegant dinners with gourmet cuisine. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus (Kerstman) arrives from Finland and provides modest gifts, but most Dutch people do the big gift-giving on New Year’s Eve of St. Nicholas.
Besides, Tweede Kerstdag, also known as Second Christmas Day (December 26), is a day when individuals visit family members or go shopping for fun. So, on this day, several of the largest retailers are open. Families used two days to enjoy separate meals with each side of the family.
Controversial is Zwarte Piet
Due to his North African ancestry, Zwarte Piet is typically described as being black. Some would claim that he delivered presents to Sinterklaas by scaling chimneys, which is why his face is black. In any case, the concept of Zwarte Piet has been criticized as racist by others, leading to the evolution of many Zwarte Piet from full blackface to a few soot markings.
When you spend the holidays in the Netherlands, you can see Zwarte Piet with few soot stains than Blackface.
Toot Your Own Horn
Handmade horns are fashioned from birch or elder saplings in rural eastern parts of the nation. People frequently blow them to commemorate Advent and the birth of Christ.
Various Locations That Celebrate Christmas the Same as the Dutch
Dutch colonial possessions like Aruba also celebrate Sinterklaas.
Stockings in Place of Wooden Shoes
Wooden shoes are a symbol of the Netherlands. Well-behaved Dutch kids leave their wooden shoes out for Sinterklaas to fill instead of hanging stockings. They frequently include a poem or message for Sinterklaas’ horse, along with some carrots, hay, or sugar cubes.
The Dutch Version of Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer
A Dutch Christmas song about a youngster hunting for his lost rabbit that ends up being served for Christmas supper is about as elegant as Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer.
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Dutch Christmas Traditions
Dutch Christmas Food
Many holiday events, like Christmas in the Netherlands, revolve around delectable cuisine. People frequently decorate trees with candy wreaths, and gifts may include little goodies. Besides, on Sinterklaas Avond, lavish feasts often include venison or roast goose, roast pork, vegetables, and baked bread. In addition, the Dutch also love boiled chestnuts, fruit, cookies, and marzipan-like bread (kerststol). To add a unique and delicious dish to the holiday menu, many families prepare letter cakes that are formed like the initial letter of each family member’s name. Also popular are raisin rolls and rich bread called strudels.
Dutch Christmas Decorations
Rustic Christmas decorations like boughs of holly and pine, wooden shoes, basic lights, and candles are common in Christmas decorations in the Netherlands. There are Christmas trees in many households, and they decorate trees with lights and ornaments. Also, they may be more subdued in comparison to western holiday displays. People love themed trees more. Poinsettias (kerststers), which are frequently used as centerpieces, accents, and another holiday décor, are another well-liked ornament. Many urban areas have wonderfully lit bridges and other public areas.
Christmas Songs In The Netherlands
Dutch Christmas customs place a high value on music. So, you’ve probably heard Dutch Christmas music played on the radio, in stores, and at holiday markets as an international student. Dutch Christmas carols include Sinterklaas, Goed Heilig Man (Saint Nicholas, Good Holy Man), Hoor de Wind Waait de Bomen (The wind keeps blowing), and Hoor Wie Stapt Daar Kinderen are among those you’ll hear (Someone is coming, children).
Dutch Christmas Gifts
It is usual to give surprise gifts on St. Nicholas Day, as indicated in the links above (Dec. 6). This is a different gift custom, despite the fact that families place gifts in the shoes the night before. On St. Nicholas Day, humorous writings and weird parcels or riddles are common additions to gifts, giving the recipient a hint as to the identity of the mysterious gift-giver. Besides, for added fun, gifts might be concealed or disguised.
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