Christmas in the Netherlands

The Dutch do not celebrate Christmas like any other country. What makes it different?

Dutch Christmas does not revolve around Santa and his reindeers. This is because we have our own Sinterklaas who brings us presents every year in the beginning of December. Dutch Christmas is all about that untranslatable and typically Dutch word: “Gezelligheid” (loosely translates into cozyness). We decorate our houses with lights and ornaments and sit around the fireplace (or television), while eating good food and listening to Christmas music.

Another thing is that the Dutch have two official Christmas days on which everyone has a day off work and/or school; First and Second Christmas day. Make no mistake, the Second Christmas day is just as important as the First. Both days are used to eat (a lot) and to visit family and friends. However, on Second Christmas day some stores are open to the public. This is mostly because people get bored of staying inside their house on First Christmas day.

The Dutch do not have any particular Christmas traditions. It is not common to give each other gifts at Christmas, but some people do. The popularity of Christmas is growing because people seem to buy more and more each year. Some families choose to replace the celebration of Sinterklaas for Christmas and give gifts on those days instead. Some children are very lucky and receive gifts on both holidays!

A popular media phenomenon around Christmas time is Serious Request. This is organized by Dutch radio station 3FM. Every year in the week leading up to Christmas, three 3FM DJ’s get locked in the “glazen huis” (glass house) to raise money for charity. During this week they have to make non-stop radio and they are not allowed to eat. People can donate money by paying for a song request or by buying special merchandise. Serious Request is broadcasted 24/7 on the radio but many people also watch it on a special TV channel. Each year on Christmas Eve, the final results are revealed. Since this takes place so close to Christmas, many Dutch people associate Serious Request with Christmas time.

Now onto the most important thing: Food! The Dutch love their food at Christmas time. In the mornings Dutch families start their day with a Christmas breakfast. This usually involves many different types of bread and spreads. A popular thing to do at night is “gourmetten” (this involves a grill on the table so that everyone can cook meat and vegetables themselves).
We also have our own food inventions, for example the “kerststol” , “kerstkransjes”, “appelflappen” and “oliebollen”. These are all very delicious sweet foods, which you can also make yourself!

So, this is all you need to know about Christmas in the Netherlands. We hope you’ll have a great time!

Merry Christmas!