Winter holiday season in the Netherlands

In this article we are sharing rituals, traditions and counsel for everyone to have the most wonderful holiday season and start the best year ever Dutch-style!

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Winter holiday season in the Netherlands

Winter holiday season in the Netherlands:
if it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much

In this article we are sharing rituals, traditions and counsel for everyone to have the most wonderful holiday season and start the best year ever Dutch-style!


Overall, Christmas days (December 25-26) are spent around the family, while New Year’s Eve is a party time. Many businesses, institutions and transport services have reduced working hours during the holidays, pay attention.

Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree is to be put up right after Sinterklaas* eve (5th of December). There are traditional options here: to buy an artificial or a natural cut one. And there are more sustainable ones too. A living Christmas tree in a pot will stay with you regardless the season. Might as well be the best option for those with a balcony or a garden to expose it to more light and air. Christmas tree can also be rented! There are quite a few companies across the country offering this service.  A tree will be picked for you from a nursery and put in a pot with all the root system intact. Then, at home one is supposed to follow temperature and care guideline to keep the tree happy and return it before an agreed date. The renting period is normally around 3 weeks (mid-December – mid-January), and there is a security deposit in case the tree does not survive all the fun, or one gets too attached to it and decides to keep.

Okay, but when do you take your tree down? …. well, right after Christmas you will already start seeing discarded Xmas trees everywhere. In case one lives on a tight budget or is simply cheap, they can of course pick the prettiest tree from the discarded pile. Also, on the New Year’s Eve tree merchants are giving out the unsold trees for free. Thus, there’s always room to bring your economies onto the next level.

Some will go out throwing theirs first thing on the 1st of January (sometimes as early as 10 o’clock).  Retired Christmas trees are to be left in designated areas and will be collected by the municipality. The deadline to bring your tree to a collection point is January, 7-15, check the dates for your municipality.

Fun fact: traditionally in Haarlem everybody under the age of 15 is getting 50 cents for every tree they bring to a collection point and then gets a chance to participate in a draw with bigger prizes (up to EUR 500). Encouragement to young entrepreneurs!

*Sinterklaas is celebrating St. Nicholas, a patron saint of children. He symbolically arrives into each city on a steamboat on the 1st weekend after November, 11 and parades around the city center on a white horse named Ozosnel.

2. Christmas markets in the Netherlands

Markets are the most magical thing to do during the holiday season! Often, however they are only there for a very short moment, so be quick. Here are some of the markets happening this holiday season.

Dutch Christmas market
  • Museumplein market in Amsterdam is featuring cute, delicious and unique goods and gifts on December, 13-26. No skating on Museumplein this year though, yeap.
  • Rembrandtplein skating rink in Amsterdam and a few food trucks make the coziest Christmas market ever.
  • Haarlem is hosting its Christmas market during December, 8-10 this year and this one is not to miss! The market occupies the entire historic city center (350 stands) and has the 15th century St. Bavo Cathedral as a backdrop. Straight out of a fairy tale!
  • Royal Christmas Fair in the Hague is taking place December, 7-23 and anything royal is obviously a must.
  • Winter Fair Rotterdam is planned for December 14-17.
  • Intratuin store in Duiven has traditionally prepared the largest Christmas show in Europe! There’s an enchanted forest, a secret treasure chamber and a universe of dreams. They are also serving Christmas High Tea Buffet—what more to say!

Bisschopswijn (or glühwein, or mulled wine), a paramount part of winter festivities, makes all sparkles brighter, goods prettier and cold afternoons outside warmer.

3. Oliebollen

Oliebollen, (very) deep-fried round pieces of dough, are an essential part of the holiday season. They are sold by supermarkets, bakeries, special oliebollen stands and trucks that are starting to appear mid-October. The varieties are countless, the main ones are: classic (plain), krentenbollen (with black currants) and rozijnbollen (with raisins). Powdered sugar melting on a hot oliebol is holiday spirit itself in a bite. There are a few theories about the origin of the delicacy. Some say it goes back to Germanic tribes and their gods and evil spirits. Others, that oliebollen, being the ultimate comfort food, simply symbolise warmth, coziness and togetherness. Just to ensure the most successful new year one is suggested to eat an oliebol. Those more advanced in the kitchen are welcome to make their own.

4. Fireworks

Fireworks in the Netherlands have been taken to another level. Record EUR 110 million have been spent on fireworks in the country for last year’s New Year’s Eve. The use of fireworks is only allowed between December, 31 18:00 and January, 1 02:00. They are heavily restricted all throughout the year though. One just knows: it’s going to be spectacular.  But it’s also going to be loud, smoky and dangerous. Brace yourselves, people. Look out for your pets when fireworks are going off, some need extra attention. Watch out for your bikes and cars too.

Nieuwjaarsduik The Netherlands

5. New Year (1st of January) swim

New Year (1st of January) swim is hosted at many seaside locations across the Netherlands. In Dutch you call this a “Nieuwjaarsduik”. The largest one in Scheveningen is traditionally sponsored by Unox, famous for their rookworst. Every swimmer is getting a branded orange hat. The tradition has been started in 1965 with only 7 participants, nowadays the number is reaching around 10,000 every year. Water temperature is expected to be around 5°C – a fresh start indeed!

Now, having the essentials covered, one is ready to celebrate!

Getting ready for the most chic Christmas party, Exactpi crew are also contemplating on the past year. Ups and downs, successes and challenges – we’ve seen it all. Finding the perfect job for every talent is what’s driving us forward. We can’t wait to meet more amazing people and create more mind-blowing opportunities.

We wish everybody the most nurturing holidays. Cheers to your career adventures, this year and the next!

Meet the author:

Anna Nasonova is Russian but also speaks English, French and basic Dutch, so she is a true international. She knows better than anyone what you encounter when you start living and working in the Netherlands and is happy to help you with this in her role as international Talent Sourcer.

Would you like to learn more about this topic or have a conversation with one of our Multilingual experts? Feel free to contact Anna.

Anna Nasonova - International Talent Sourcer

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