Celebrating Dutch Christmas

Christmas in Netherlands

Christmas is celebrated in the Netherlands in its own unique and fascinating ways. Sinterklaas is a celebrated character in the Netherlands, and his arrival signifies the start of the festive season. In the Netherlands, the coming of Sinterklaas is a highly significant Christmas custom. On December 5, the Dutch mark Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) eve. This is the occasion when Sinterklaas visits each child’s house and presents them with gifts and sweets to enjoy.

Setting up of Christmas Tree

This is a must-have for a Dutch Christmas. You are free to be as creative as you like with this. However, there is an important thing to note that Dutch do not put up Christmas trees until after Sinterklaas, so you will not see a decorated hall until December 7th. 



What happens on Christmas Day?

The celebrations start on December 24th at midnight. Generally, people visit the church at that time to pray and come out and eat sandwiches. This celebration continues for two days. December 25th is the first day of Christmas. This is the day when the family get together to eat dinner, watch movies, sing carols and exchange gifts. The tradition is followed by the ‘Make your own dinner’ type of meal where every family member cooks and shares a feast of grilled meat, cheese, vegetables and various sauces. 

Then comes December 26th the second day of Christmas also known as Tweede kerstdag. This day is generally spent with another side of the family or people prefer going shopping. Many of the biggest stores open on this day. 

Traditional Christmas Food

  • Speculaas- it’s a type of crunchy cookies

  • Oliebollen- refers to “Oil Balls” in English. They are spherical balls coated with oil and powdered sugar that taste like doughnuts.

  • Kerststol- This delight is made by kneading the dough to form the sweet bread, then adding raisins, sultanas, lemon zest, and brandy and folding the dough in such a way that it resembles a type of swiss roll, and then baking until the surface turns brown and crispy.

  • Banketstaaf – a Dutch pastry filled with a delicious almond paste core that is occasionally shaped like a letter (banketletters).

  • Bischopswijn – Dutch mulled wine that is said to be a favourite of Sinterklass.

  • Jan Hagel- are the fluffy cookies flavoured with cinnamon, almond flakes, and candied sugar.

Traditional Christmas Drinks

Dutch prefer drinking a thick, brandy-spiked version of eggnog, Hot Chocolate and Fruit Punch.

Favourite Christmas Markets to visit

  • WinterWelVaart: This is a well-known Christmas market in the Dutch city of Groningen. During the Christmas season, this market includes a lot of classic wooden stalls with a variety of fascinating items to purchase. This market opens out to the canals held by this town, which are entirely frozen at this time of year, and provides incredible prospects for a fun-filled experience of ice-skating on naturally frozen ice.

  • Christmas Market Velvet Cave: This market is put up in a magnificent style beneath the remains of Valkenburg Castle in the Limburg area. During the Christmas season, more than 60 merchants visit to set up their stores, which provide a diverse range of items.

  • Magical Maastricht: Maastricht transforms into a beautiful shopping destination during the Christmas season, with numerous market kiosks spanning the town streets. The game stalls in this area, which host a range of games, provide the finest Christmas experience in the Netherlands for children. This market also has ice skating rinks, which is a fascinating sport to do if you’re in the area.

Toot your Horn

In addition to Sinterklaas Avond celebrations, midwinter horn blowing has been observed as another tradition in the Netherland. Handmade horns are fashioned out of birch or elder saplings in rural eastern parts of the nation. These are frequently blown to commemorate Advent and the birth of Christ.  Christmas is an opportunity in the Netherlands to engage in a variety of activities in the country’s towns, villages and cities.


Also, read our article Do you know why Sinterklaas is an important aspect of Christmas in the Netherlands?

Image Credits: Unsplash

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