Saint Nicholas day or Sinterklaas is officially celebrated in the Netherlands on the 5th of December, especially in families with little children. However, this celebration starts in November, when Saint Nicholas arrives in the Netherlands, and visits cities one by one, including Groningen. Children are encouraged to leave a shoe out for Saint Nicholas. They believe that at night, when they are asleep, Saint Nicholas comes by on his white horse named Amerigo, and leaves sweets or presents. Gifts are accompanied by poems, something which is also common amongst Dutch adults (and international students:) ). This festivity is synonymous to traditional sweets such as pepernoot, taaitaai, chocolate letters and marzipan.
A version of secret santa called lootjes trekken is played.
Among the Dutch, Christmas (which usually lasts two days) is a time of togetherness but it not as widely celebrated as other countries. Gifts were generally not exchanged, but this tradition is slowly starting to change. Usually it is celebrated with immediate family. It’s celebrated on December 25 and 26. It is very common for Dutch families to have decorated Christmas trees as well as a large hot plate in the middle of the table where everyone can cook their own food.
The first day of the year is called ‘Nieuwjaarsdag’, or New Years Day and is also a public holiday and most people will have the day off. The day before is called ‘Oudejaarsdag’ (Old Years Day) and is usually celebrated with family and/or friends. On this day, traditional New Years pastries like ‘Oliebollen’ are eaten. At mid-night the Dutch wish all the best to all in their presence and fire works are set off, after which a large celebration occurs, especially in larger cities like Amsterdam.
The Dutch celebrate both Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, according to the Catholic Calendar, which is usually one or two weeks earlier than the Orthodox Easter.
During Easter there are various customs like the Easter Bunny and Egg Hunting. Egg hunting is a game during which decorated eggs, filled with or made of chocolate candies, are hidden in various places for children to find. Real eggs may further be used in egg tapping contests. Food is a very big part of the dutch culture around the holidays, so it is customary to celebrate it with a rich breakfast with eggs and easter bread, or eating out. Orthodox churches around the Netherlands also celebrate Easter during Greek Easter, with the holy light also arriving to certain churches in the Netherlands.
Since April 2013 the Netherlands has a king so Queen’s Day has been renamed ‘Koningsdag’ (‘King’s Day’) and is celebrated on April 27, unless this date is on a Sunday, then it’s celebrated on the preceding Saturday. On the day of the celebration of king Willem Alexander’s birthday, the whole Netherlands is “painted” orange. The salespeople, including children, often wear orange clothes. Jumble sales or free-markets are traditionally held in the streets of some city centres. The King and his family visit two places somewhere in the country. Those places organize a special program, displaying local folklore.
The day is regionally celebrated with musical performances, games and for the true party animals the celebrations begins on King’s night (the evening before King’s day).
Tompouce is an orange pastry traditionally consumed during King’s Day.
In 1990 the day was declared a national holiday, where the liberation is commemorated and celebrated every year on the 5th of May. Liberation day is a public holiday that commemorates the end of Nazi Germany occupation during the Second World War. The day before, on the 4th of May, there are commemorations at local war memorials in all municipalities in the Netherlands. At 20:00 everyone stops for two minutes to reflect on all Dutch victims who died during The Second World War and other wars.