In the Netherlands Christmas is celebrated over 2 days, Eerste Kerstdag (First Christmas Day) on December 25 and Tweede Kerstdag (Second Christmas Day) on December 26, both of which are public holidays.
This may seem similar to what you know here in South Africa but things are actually quite different in the Netherlands. Christmas is not about Santa Claus bringing gifts on a sleigh with reindeer. It is about the ambience, the food and your loved ones.
Children do get gifts but not at Christmas. The Dutch celebrate Sinterklaas (St Nicholas Day) on the 5th of December and this is when the children receive their gifts.
Christmas is about a cosy atmosphere. Christmas trees are decorated with glittery pine cones, glass balls, golden nuts and candles. Advent star lights are put in windows and each town square has a large brightly lit Christmas tree.
At Christmas you will find old-fashioned food stalls selling doughnuts, oliebollen and appelflappen, flower sellers who offer beautiful wreathes, poinsettias, holly, mistletoe and decorated pine cones, and you will hear Christmas carillon music (an instrument made up of many bells) played everywhere.
Christmas is family time and it is only recently (and confusingly) that de Kerstman (Santa Claus) is trying to edge in on the traditional Dutch Christmas. Some families attend late night Christmas services together and then eat an early breakfast of kersstol (Christmas loaf) with butter and luxury goodies like pates and smoked salmon.
Whether religious or not, Dutch people spend Christmas relaxing at home with their loved ones and eat course after course of delectable dishes. Gourmetten is probably the most typical Dutch meal at Christmas. A grill is placed on the table and everyone cooks their bite sized chunks of meat and vegetables themselves.
The second day of Christmas is spent visiting family and friends, doing something together as a family like going ice skating and most definitely – eating left overs!
We hope that you enjoy a Christmas filled with love, loved ones, Christmas sparkle and delectable food.
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