Christmas in the Netherlands is one of the joyous celebrations where you can have a blast if you decide to visit the country. It is a period marked by serving delicious foods, family gatherings, and holiday traditions unique to the country. 

The Dutch people have managed to keep their Christmases noncommercial, unlike many other Western countries. The Christmas atmosphere in the country is usually calm and relaxed.

While Christmas in the Netherlands is similar to Christmases in the western countries, there are peculiar differences that will give you a different perspective on the different cultures and traditions that you will only find in the Netherlands.

The holiday season in the Netherlands usually kicks off before the real Christmas day as people prepare for this amazing season. The preparations usually kick off with Sinterklaas, an old man with a silver beard and a red-white suit that usually looks like Santa Claus. He is known to play an important role during the Christmas period in the Netherlands because he brings presents to the children who behaved well.

Christmas traditions and customs in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a unique country, and it has some of the most exceptional Christmas traditions that you are going to find in the world. Here are some of the most important Christmas traditions in this country:


The belief in St. Nicholas is one of the mainstays of the Christmas traditions in the Netherlands. People celebtate the feast of St. Nicholas on December 5th. On this day, the children clean their rooms and shine their shoes. Once the shoes are clean, they will place them by the window or under the fireplace. They believe that Sinterklaas will come and give them all kinds of gifts that range from candies, sweets, and other smaller gifts.

Sinterklaas usually has a helper, and he is important because he usually brings twigs to the children who misbehaved during the previous year.

Further reading: Chocolate factories in the Netherlands

Christmas Eve in the Netherlands

This festivity is filled with a wide range of activities. It is the perfect time for shopping and getting the Christmas tree in place. You can as well see people from different areas of the country doing their Christmas decorations during this period. 

You will find that some people will include light, candles, wreaths, and trees in their decorations. During this period, the shops and the Christmas markets are waiting eagerly for shoppers who will come for Christmas shopping during this period. 

Every shop around the country has wreaths, trees, and presents usually sold during the Christmas period. The Dutch people usually get their trees from the forest, especially the people in the rural areas. The people in the urban areas will purchase the Christmas trees from vendors around the country.

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Santa Claus in the Netherlands

Santa is not as popular in the Netherlands as in other western countries because you will find that Sinterklaas is far more popular here. Only about half of the people in the Netherlands celebrate Christmas and the number of people who value Santa Claus continues to grow in the country.

Santa Claus brings gifts to the children as well, and he usually places them in the fireplace on Christmas Eve. 

Further reading: Christmas in Norway

Traditional Christmas food and drinks in the Netherlands

Kerstkransjes is usually the most important thing during the Christmas period in the Netherlands, where sweets dominate the Christmas tables. In the Christmas markets around the country, you will find that oliebollen, fried apple beignets, and fried batter balls sprinkled with sugar are often sold around the country. 

In different homes around the country, you will find families serving kerststol, which is a sweet loaf of bread spiced with cinnamon and filled with raisins. Other pastries that are common during the Christmas period include banketstaaf, which is stuffed and is higher in almond paste.

Christmas dinners in the Netherlands during the Christmas period are not as complicated as you will find in other European countries. The most common practice is gourmetten. In this aspect, an electric grill is placed on the table and friends and family can fry up their slices of vegetables, meats, and cheese in their pans.  It is one of the most practical ways of meal preparation.

The main traditional dishes in the Netherlands during this period are mainly dominated by ingredients such as almonds, white flour, sugar, and dried fruits. These treats include ginger nuts, egg yolk liqueur, Dutch mulled wines, and spiced biscuits. Depending on the region that you visit, you will find different dishes only prepared during the festive period. 

Further reading: Christmas in Germany

Christmas Day in the Netherlands

The Dutch people usually put so much emphasis on Christmas Day rather than Christmas Eve, as it is common in different parts of the world. They consider the 26th of December as the second day of Christmas, therefore you will find that people celebrate immensely on both Christmas Day and the day after.

The main aim for Christmas is to enjoy your time with friends and families and it is one of the most common traditions around the Netherlands.

The Dutch people are no longer staunch Christians or follow the religious traditions that usually happen during the Christmas period. However, it is critical to note that there are still several people who value Christianity and the traditions that accompany it during Christmas.

Early in the morning of Christmas day, they will visit the nearby church where there is Christmas mass and here you will hear people singing Christmas carols, and reciting Christmas poems. In some places, you will find nativity scenes – the figurines that are dedicated to the birth of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the manger, and other animals that were present during the birth of Jesus. 

In the eastern part of the Netherlands, there is a Christmas tradition of horn blowing and when you visit this region you will find that people stand in the frozen lakes and begin to blow their horns as they announce the birth of baby Jesus. Depending on the region some blow their horns while in other places the people place the horn at home as a symbol.

Further reading: Christmas in France

Christmas dinner

The Dutch people will go to church in the morning and they will then gather at a table where they will enjoy Christmas lunch. The food is usually prepared on Christmas Eve and it will vary from one region to another.

The Christmas dinner is usually made up of geese, hare, venison, turkey, roast pork, and beef, and this is accompanied by a variety of vegetable dishes. 

There is usually a grill set in the center and mini pans for everyone. You will be required to grill your cut of meat as well as your choice of vegetables. The desserts usually feature some kind of pudding, hot chocolate, and whipped cream.

December 26th in the Netherlands

Christmas is not over as the Dutch people usually take two days to celebrate their Christmas traditions. It is common for people to still wish each other Merry Christmas on this day. Depending on the region, people use different variations of phrases; however, all of them are to wish happy thoughts during the Christmas period.

The Dutch Christmas is similar to that of any other Western country that follows Christianity. It is more characterized by fine dining and wining and people will open their Christmas gifts on Boxing Day. As for the children, Santa Claus usually comes on Christmas Eve and he will place the gifts in different parts of the house.

Christmas songs and poems in the Netherlands

Commonly, you will hear Christmas songs being played on the television or radio around the country. It is a part of the Dutch traditions to play the music in Christmas markets, radios, televisions, and other areas. The local people get in their Christmas spirit and you can find some children singing these songs as they move from house to house.

The children often get rewarded with candies and sweets. It is critical to note that there are also Christmas concerts in the major cities.

Family time in the Netherlands

Perhaps one of the most outstanding features of the Christmas period is that people in the Netherlands value their family time. During Christmas, it is a perfect time for people to visit each other. Once they have finished their lunch on Boxing Day, you will find that people will often visit their friends and families.

It is a tradition that has been kept for centuries and you will find people practicing it from one location to another. People also visit the Christmas markets as well with friends and families, as they can purchase some of the seasonal products sold in the Netherlands.