Christmas in The Netherlands – Santa is Most Awaited For

Christmas in the Netherlands is similar to the experiences in the other western major Christian countries.

A Dutch Christmas is majorly typified by family gatherings, having excellent drinks and food for celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ and the arrival of Santa Claus (Kerstman in Dutch).

It is interesting to know how people wish Happy or Merry Christmas in other languages.

Receiving and giving gifts is also part of the delightful events that the people in the Netherlands enjoy practicing during the Christmas season.

Many foreigners who stay through the Netherlands Christmas period are always delightfully astonished by the familiarity of the Netherlands Christmas traditions while at the same time thankful; probably, because of the existence of some of the standard commercial practices that accompany Christmas festivities in their home countries.

There are some distinctions, however that foreigners notice when participating in the Christmas festivities in the Netherlands.

One of the popular events is the appearance of a white-bearded, man in a red suit who is referred to as Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) who is customarily encircled by scandalous black helpers who are referred to as Zwarte Piet.

Some activists are pushing for change in the concept of Zwarte Pier.

Nevertheless, there are more pleasant Dutch customs enclosing their arrival, and children never lament on the issue of getting presents from Zwarte Piet and Sinterklaas on 5th December.

If having two Santa Claus seems confusing, this article will help you prepare for the Netherlands Christmas season and comprehend the Dutch Christmas customs, from Kerstman to Sinterklaas.

Like they say it in the Netherlands, Vrolijk Kerstfeest! (Merry Christmas).

Early Commencement of Christmas Festivities and the Two Santa’s

Christmas in the Netherlands officially commences with the coming of Sinterklaas and his multitude of Zwarte Piet assistants in mid-November.

He hails from a boat in Spain to a varying Dutch city each year, in the event that is broadcasted on live television.

The feast of Sinterklaas is done on 5th December, and apart from being threatened by his cousin from the North, this tradition is becoming famous.

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During the December celebrations, shops, businesses, and families polish their Sinterklaas costumes and dust off the prior year’s Christmas paraphernalia.

Candles, lights, wreaths, lights, trees, and poinsettias are strung during the Christmas period in the Netherlands, tacked, hung, taped and kept in every available space.

Department stores enthusiastically get into the wave of things during the Christmas period, by decorating their floors with flowers, bows, fake presents, wreaths, and massive plastic trees, as they prepare for the growing shopping people.

Streets are usually filled up, depicting that the Netherlands has adopted the commercialism as well.

The delightful trees and lighted decorations along the streets and homes make the dark and cold December cold warm and cheery.

Thus, the warm nature spirit of Christmas in the Netherlands can be summarized as well and alive.

The Real Santa Claus

Apart from the arrival of Sinterklaas, there is also another white-bearded man who arrives in the Netherlands on Christmas Eve.

The second arrival is what most foreigners can relate to as being Santa Claus) Kerstman in Dutch.

However, the arrival of Kerstman does not fundamentally translate that there will be a sharing of presents in all households.

In fact, Sinterklaas is regarded as more popular than Kerstman.

Thus, in spite of many people celebrating Christmas with presents, Santa Claus is generally put in second place after Sinterklaas.

Christmas Song

Of all the customs practiced during Christmas in the Netherlands, music is considered a significant part of Christmas.

It will be common to hear Dutch Christmas rhymes being played on television, radio broadcasts as well as shopping centers on the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Expats will feel at home by getting across to the many English Christmas songs.

However, the Dutch still have a market of their own Christmas class songs. One of the top Dutch Christmas songs is about a dead rabbit.

Xmas Food in the Netherlands

The Christmas food in the Netherlands was anciently dominated by many ingredients such as almonds, spices, dried fruits and sugar, and all the known expensive meals that were generally reserved for special events.

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Xmas Food in Netherlands

There are still some special cookies and sweet treats that are only eaten during the Christmas festive season, and they include, ginger nuts, egg yolk liquor, and Dutch milled wine.

However, spiced biscuits tend to be eaten year-round in the current era.

A sweet tooth is indeed appreciated during Christmas time in the Netherlands, and you will experience the most standard Dutch Christmas treats and food Such as:

  1. Duivekater – a sweet festal white bread
  2. Appelbeignets – which are apple fritters that are most common during New Year’s.
  3. Speculaass – sweetened cinnamon/ginger cookies
  4. Kertskrans – a pastry that is wreath shaped ad added glace fruits that are full of almond paste
  5. Jon Hagel cookies – which are flakey cookies that are spiced with almond flakes, cinnamon, and candied sugar.

Unique Traditions during Christmas in the Netherlands

While the commercialized shopping experiences during Christmas are common to all, there are some notable differences during Christmas in the Netherlands without could leave your mouth agape.

For instance, a long-practiced tradition among people in rural areas is horn blowing during the mid-winter.

This tradition begins on the fourth Sunday prior to Christmas (Advent Sunday) and continues up to the eve of Christmas.

Farmers blow longhorns that are created from the wood of old trees every day in the morning while standing on top of a well to announce the coming of Jesus Christ.

You may purchase a horn at some of the markets where it is also possible to witness how the woodsmen work.

Two Days of Christmas in the Netherlands

Christmas in Dutch is celebrated over two days which are referred to as the First and Second day of Christmas (25th and 26th December).

These days are spent with relatives, singing carols, watching movies, participating in feasts, and reading Christmas stories.

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Surprisingly, a study indicates that some of the residents celebrate Christmas but do not know the actual Christian story behind the celebrations.

Some of the religious people do not know the true meaning of Christmas either.

Thus, these results indicate that most people regard family get-together with higher priority as compared to the religious part of Christmas.

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Main Points About Christmas in The Netherlands

  1. Christmas is unusually quiet in the Netherlands. There are no elaborate activities on that day.
  2. On Christmas morning, there is a church service and a family meal afterward. Sometimes in the afternoon at church, the nativity story is told.
  3. On the day after Christmas, people go out visiting relatives and other extended family members. While going out to shop or have fun.
  4. Christmas trees are very common in the homes of many families in the Netherlands.
  5. All the festive buzz in the Netherlands happens on the 5th of December.  It is the St. Nicholas’ eve (present evening). The Netherland children receive their presents on that day.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About Christmas in The Netherlands


Typical for Christmas in the Netherlands, is that Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas, from which we got the name Santa Claus) will leave gifts for the children on December 5th, St. Nicholas’ Eve, in a shoe placed on the doorstep.

If they’ve been good, then kids get the gifts. If not, ”Zwarte Piet” (”Black Peters”), who travels with St. Nicholas, will put them in a sack and send them abroad to teach them how to behave!

If you have been to the Netherlands on Christmas or stay in the Netherlands then do share your first-hand experience in the comments below.

Word Cloud for Christmas in The Netherlands

The following is a collection of the most used terms in this article on Christmas in The Netherlands. This should help in recalling related terms as used in this article at a later stage for you.