Christmas Quick Facts - NL

AKA Name1e Kerstdag
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2023 Date25 December 2023
2024 Date25 December 2024


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Christmas is a widely observed holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, serving both as a religious celebration and a widespread cultural phenomenon. Its observance incorporates multiple essential aspects such as attending church services, sharing meals with family and friends, and giving and receiving gifts. Other common traditions include decorating homes with holiday lights, Christmas trees, and handcrafted ornaments. It is also an occasion that is renowned for philanthropy, with numerous acts of kindness and generosity performed in the spirit of the season.

The Netherlands possesses a rich history of Christmas observance, influenced by a fusion of Christian traditions and local legends. One distinctive feature that sets the Dutch apart is the celebration of 'Sinterklaas', which is Saint Nicholas Day on December 5. According to Dutch folklore, Sinterklaas arrives from Spain by steamship bringing gifts for children. This event is separate from Christmas Day, providing Dutch children with an extra day of festivities and gifts. Christmas in the Netherlands is also recognized for its choir concerts and Christmas markets, which provide ample entertainment and holiday spirit for both locals and tourists.

In the Netherlands, Christmas is a two-day event, observed on December 25 (Eerste Kerstdag or 'first Christmas Day') and December 26 (Tweede Kerstdag or 'second Christmas Day'). These days are public holidays and most people are off work. The celebration includes attending midnight mass on Christmas Eve, followed by a festive familial dinner on Christmas Day. The second Christmas Day is usually a quieter, more intimate day spent with immediate family. In recent years, it is becoming increasingly popular to use this second day for recreational outings or visiting Christmas markets.

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Christmas facts

  • During the 4th Century A.D., Bishop Nicolas of Smyrna was known to be very generous to the poor, especially to children. He was later given the title of Saint Nicholas and is patron saint of children.
  • Constantine the Great named the holiday and set the date for Jesus' birth as being December 25th. This happened in 325 A.D.
  • The Christmas tree is a custom that is believed to have begun in Germany in the 18th century. Candles and decorations that are lit represented the light of Christ in the world.
  • The Dutch are credited with popularizing the Christmas tree tradition in the 19th century, thanks to German and Scandinavian influences. In the 17th century, the Dutch brought the custom of decorating homes with greenery and candles during Christmas to the New World (colonial America).
  • A popular Dutch Christmas dinner tradition is 'gourmetten,' where families gather around a tabletop grill to cook small portions of meat, vegetables, and other ingredients, similar to fondue or raclette. It encourages eating together and enjoying everyone's company.

Top things to do in Netherlands for Christmas

  • Attend a Christmas Eve service at a local church. Many churches offer midnight mass. Alternately, watch the Pope's annual Christmas eve service broadcast live from the Vatican.
  • Many churches hold pageants for children that involve playing the parts of the nativity scene. Go to one of these events or put up a nativity scene in your home.
  • Prepare some traditional Dutch Christmas treats like kerstkransjes (Christmas wreath cookies), banketstaaf (a log-shaped pastry filled with almond paste), or oliebollen (deep-fried dough balls covered in powdered sugar).
  • Dutch people often attend special Christmas services at local churches to commemorate the religious aspect of the holiday.

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