Christmas is a unique and a religious occasion for the people of Holland. People consider Christmas to be a peaceful time, which is usually spent with family indoors. Typically, Christmas celebrations begin in late November and go on till the 26th of December, which is also known as the 'Second Christmas Day'. Holland Christmas treats are believed to be extremely delicious and some of the famous ones include 'kerstkransjes', 'pepernoot', 'Kerststol' and Speculaas' that are served during the Christmas feast. For the people of Holland, 'St. Nicholas Day' is the most important day for Christmas celebrations, thereby, calling it the 'First Christmas Day'. 'Sinterklass', the Dutch Santa Claus, is believed to be the bringer of gifts. Houses during Christmas time are adorned with wreaths, candles, Christmas lights and frosted bells. According to Dutch traditions, people living in farms blow a horn, four Sundays ahead of Christmas Day to announce the arrival of the Christmas season. Read this article to know more about Holland's Christmas traditions, customs and celebrations.
Customs, Traditions & Celebrations
Celebrations In Holland
Christmas celebrations in Holland begin in late November. For the people of Holland, Christmas is a time to spend precious time with their families and loved ones. Some communities, who live in the farms, declare the beginning of the Christmas season on the fourth Sunday before Christmas. They declare this arrival by blowing a horn made out of the branches of an Elder tree. Although the noise produced from the horns are eerie to hear, the sounds reverberate and can be heard over a radius of 20 miles. 26th December is celebrated as the 'Second Christmas Day' and families go out to eat, attend concerts and musical events to enjoy this holiday.
Holland Christmas Traditions
During Christmas time, people buy Christmas trees and adorn them with Christmas wreath cookies, which are called 'kerstkransjes'. These trees are also decorated with glass baubles, ribbons, sparkling pine cones, frosted bells, gilded nuts and red candles. Advent Christmas stars are lit and placed over the windows, lighting all the houses in the neighborhood. Shops are decorated with lights, ribbons, wreaths and stars to reflect the theme of the festive season. One can also hear Christmas glockenspiel music played in the stalls and department stores during this time. Some stalls provide seasonal treats like 'oliebollen' and 'appelflappen', which are absolute favorites among the people in Holland. Wreaths made from holly, pine cones, mistletoe and poinsettias are sold by flower stalls on the street and are bought in many numbers to decorate homes. Christmas trees are beautifully decorated and are placed in the streets, churches, shops and houses.
Holland is the only country that celebrates 'St. Nicholas Day' in the most exuberant manner. Children in Holland eagerly wait for this day, which is celebrated on December 6th. 'Sinterklass' is the Dutch Santa Claus who wears red bishop robes and a long pointed 'mitre' on his head. Dutch children are told that Sinterklaas arrives in Holland on a huge steamboat from Spain, along with his white horse and his helper known as 'Zwarte Piets' or 'Black Peter'. Children leave wooden shoes filled with hay and carrots near fireplaces for Sinterklaas' horse on the Eve of St. Nicholas. Next morning, the children would find these shoes filled with presents left for them by Sinterklaas. The children would not receive any more presents after St. Nicholas Day
A traditional Christmas dinner in Holland consists of a variety of specialties like 'pepernoot', which are biscuits flavoured with spices and cinnamon. 'Letter blanket' or 'letter cake' is a different kind of biscuit, made with special pastry or marzipan. 'Speculaas' are spiced cookies served during the feast. 'Kerststol' is a type of sweet bread, made with an assortment of dry fruits. The 'gourmetten' is a Dutch meal, which is prepared on the 'gourmet set'. Popular dishes are made from rabbit, goose, turkey or venison and are served along with other dishes. 'Advocaat' is a famous Dutch drink, enjoyed along with the feast. As part of the Christmas celebrations, mulled wine and eggnog are prepared and served.
Christmas Eve In Holland
After the feast, people gather around the Christmas tree to sing Christmas carols and narrate stories to children. Every member of the family goes to church to attend Mass on the night of Christmas Eve and also during the early hours of Christmas morning. On the day of Christmas, the people in Holland quietly celebrate with their family and closest friends and also attend services at church.
"Prettige Kerstdagen!" is Holland's way of wishing "Merry Christmas". Holland's famous, delicious dishes are prepared during Christmas time, which makes Christmas Eve celebrations extremely special. The Christmas Carillion music played in the houses and shops complements the elaborate decorations arranged by the people to create a wonderful Christmas atmosphere for all.
Christmas is a quiet and peaceful celebration in Holland. Read on to know more about the Christmas customs, traditions and celebrations in this country.