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Christmas in the Netherlands: Click here to go back

St. Nick
In the Netherlands St. Nicholas is known as Sinterklaas. His feast day is on December 6th.The children are given gifts such as toys, nuts and traditional Dutch like "pepernoten", "taai-taai" or "schuimpjies". Sinterklaas has helpers called "zwarte pieten." On December 5th families stay up and sing songs until they hear a knock at the door. When they open the door there is a bag full of lollies and gifts. Christmas is also celebrated on the 25th and 26th of December. Families have dinner and go to church afterwards. Christmas day is spent both at home and at church and the day after Christmas is spent with family members. Sinterklaas wears a red bishop’s hat, a red bishop’s cloak and has white hair and a white beard.

Christmas songs
Popular modern folk carols include the "Cherry Tree Carol" and "I Saw Three Ships." Composed carols gained variety in form in the 17th century, while their texts began to centre on Christmas. After a decline, the composed carol was revived about 1880 by religious reformers promoting devotional hymn singing. Their efforts gave rise to newly written carols such as "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing," by the Methodist clergyman Charles Wesley, and to translations of foreign carols such as "Silent Night" (from German) and "O Come, All Ye Faithful" (from Latin). One of the most popular carols is "O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree".

Food at Christmas
In the Netherlands at Christmas the people eat a good deal of marzipan in every shape and form, as well as spiced ginger biscuits, spiced cakes in the form of animals and figures, tall chocolate letters in the shape of an initial S and "bankletter" - initials made of pastry filled with almond paste. "Kerstbrood" is what they call Christmas loaf and "Kerstkrans" is a Christmas ring which is eaten when they are around the Christmas tree singing songs.

The Christmas tree and decorations
In the Netherlands the Christmas tree is called the paradise tree. You can buy artificial trees or real pine trees. In the sixteenth century Christians brought trees and put them in their homes. Some people built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles. Early Christmas decorations include dolls, musical instruments, fruit, candy and lights. So even though the Dutch do have a tree at Christmas, the festival is a quiet family affair with the children gathering around the tree to listen to father reading the story of the first Christmas from the New Testament.

Religion
Most Dutch people are Christians. Those living in the north are mainly Protestant, while those in the southern part of the country are mostly Roman Catholic. There are a small number of Jews and also people from the countries once governed by the Netherlands, who have their own religions. They can worship in their special ways and celebrate their own religious festivals.

Fewer Christians are going to church now, so some of the churches are no longer used for religious services. Instead they have been converted into exhibition and concert halls and even into homes.

Unfortunately in the Netherlands everything tends to split on religious and political grounds, just as every school has to be built in triplicate - Dutch Reformed Church, Roman Catholic and State School. Even such activities as shopping are often affected. If you are a Roman Catholic, you may tend to patronize a Roman Catholic milkman, for instance; or if you are a Lutheran, to go to a Protestant butcher.

(Hi people,
I want to comment on your 'Christmas in the Netherlands' web-page. The last paragraph is not correct anymore. This was at least 20 years ago, when this was correct.

People in The Netherlands are not so religious anymore, they think that what you believe is your business. Also when they do there shopping, they buy what they like and want to try
new things every day. So they shop everywhere, just as long its cheap and
nice.

I have never seen a Roman Catholic milkman, there is just a milkman (or woman). You can't see if the milkman is Roman Catholic or Protestant or beliefs in some other God loving way.

Greetings,
Mak)

(I disagree. My plumber, farmer, grocer, etc. are Roman Catholic. And they are my plumber, farmer, grocer, etc. because they are Roman Catholic. There are many religious people in the Netherlands and what business owners / service providers believe IS our business, particularly when we am patronizing (paying for) their business or service. The comment above detracts from the message on this page. Vrolijk Kerstfeest, JF )

By Ryan and Eric

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