What’s better than Christmas time in Europe?! People cherish this festive season and celebrations last much longer in this part of the world. Everyone will be wishing you Christmas wishes and hopefully invite you to partake in some Dutch Christmas traditions. This article will go over some of the most common Dutch Christmas greetings so you can greet people as well during the Christmas season.
Let’s first get started by learning about the Christmas traditions in The Netherlands aka Holland!
Dutch Christmas Traditions
The first thing to note is that, unlike many other western nations, The Netherlands has two public holidays, not one holiday, for Christmas! They are December 25th and December 26th. The extra day is granted to give people time to relax and spend time with family. What a novel idea!
Many Dutch Christmas traditions are tied to religious dates, while others are linked to lore and legend. You’ll still see many typical Christmas things such as Christmas trees and wreaths, and cities and homes will be decorated with Christmas lights too.
Our first stop on a traditional Dutch Christmas tour is a Christmas market.
Christmas Markets (kerstmarkt)
The Christmas markets are incredible in The Netherlands. The biggest ones can be experienced in the cities of Dordrecht, Deventer, or Maastricht but for a truly one-of-a-kind experience, check out Valkenburg. Its Christmas market is underground in a cave!
There Are TWO Santa Claus In The Netherlands!
The first Santa was actually a real person called St. Nicholas. His kind spirit returns once a year to bring gifts. The second Santa is called Christmas man (Kerstman) and comes from Lapland in Finland, which is known as the land of Santa Claus. He also delivers presents.
St. Nicholas Day (Sinterklaasdag)
Children in The Netherlands, are most looking forward to the 5th of December. This is when Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) brings them presents! Technically, St. Nicholas’s Day is actually December 6th, but people in The Netherlands prefer to celebrate on St. Nicholas’s Eve.
*Fun fact! Did you know the name Santa Claus comes from the name Sinterklaas?
Sinterklaas parties are held for children on December 5th. These involve treasure hunts and riddles serving as clues for children to find their presents. At school on St. Nicholas’s Day, children will bring a Secret Santa gift to school for a classmate.
Running up to December 6th, the Dutch in the Netherlands have another really cool Christmas tradition. Starting on the second Saturday of November Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands and begins his journey to different harbors around the country.
Children anxiously await him and his servants who are known as Zwarte Pieten (Black Peters) or Sooty Pieten (Sooty Peters) or Roetpieten (Chimney Peters). Upon their arrival, church bells will ring and children will run to the pier to see Sinterklaas dressed in all his glory! He even is known to ride a white horse.
Children will see if they’ve been naughty or nice! If they’ve been good, they’ll get a gift from Santa and his helpers, but if they’ve been bad, they’ll be put in a sack and carried onto Santa’s boat to be shipped away!
Advent Calendars (Advent kalender)
Advent traditions reflect the Christian religious celebration of the arrival aka advent of Jesus Christ (Jezus Christus). Many believe his official birthday is on the 25th of December.
An Advent calendar consists of 24 doors, windows, or boxes that represent each day of December from the 1st to the 24th. One door, window, or box is opened each day and has a treat or candy inside. The largest surprise lies behind the December 24th door with a large treat and a nativity scene (kerststal).
The Advent Wreath (Adventskrans)
Advent wreaths in the Netherlands do not hang on doors. Rather they are table-top pieces with four candles, sometimes five, with each one representing one of the four Advent Sundays leading up to Christmas Eve. The fifth candle may be lit on December 24th.
Burning The Christmas Tree (kerstboom)
Well, this is a rather interesting Dutch Christmas tradition. At the start of the New Year, people will drag their Christmas trees outside and light them on fire. This is a very old tradition meant to act as cleansing to start out a fresh new year.
Christmas Eve In The Netherlands (Kerstavond)
You’ll find many families in church during the evening where they celebrate the birth of Jesus. This Midnight Mass (nachtmis) is the busiest night of the year for all churches in the country.
Once home, children await the arrival of the Christmas Man aka Santa (Kerstman) who will deliver more gifts!
Christmas Day In The Netherlands (kerstdag)
Christmas Day is actually known as the first Christmas day (Eerste Kerstdag) because there are two Christmas Days. The second day is called Tweede Kerstdag. Locals look forward to a witte kerst which means white Christmas on December 25th. Most people will spend this day with family and enjoy a Christmas dinner (kerstdiner) together.
A Dutch Christmas Dinner (Kerstdiner)
The Dutch go all out for Christmas dinners and it’s a time for family to get together and enjoy each other’s company. The main will usually be one of the following meats:
- venison (deer) (hert)
- goose (gans)
- hare (haas)
- turkey (kalkoen)
There will be a large serving of vegetables and Christmas bread (Kerstbrood).
In recent times it’s become really popular for people to cook their own meal on a hot plate which they call a gourmetten. Essentially think of the Korean hotpot style where you cook your meat to your liking but with vegetables.
Dessert is almost always a type of pudding served with a hot cup of cocoa!
Most Common Dutch Christmas Greetings
All right we’re here at the part you’ve been waiting for! How do you say ‘Merry Christmas’ in Dutch?
Extra Dutch Words Related To Christmas
If you’re celebrating Christmas with Dutch friends or family you may want to also know some other Christmas-related vocabulary to help you during the Christmas season.
Ready To Spend Christmas In The Netherlands?
Now that you know the most common Dutch Christmas greetings, you’re nearly ready for the holidays. The next step is to learn how to wish someone a Happy New Year!
Also important when you learn Dutch, is how to say thank you to those wishing you well during this time of year and when they host you at Christmas celebrations.
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