December is in full swing and that means it is time to begin preparing, enjoying, and celebrating Christmas. A sparkling tree in the living room, the smell of baking biscuits floating out of the oven and Christmas songs on the radio—Christmas celebrations really do start at home. But just how do you give your Christmas that extra touch of ‘Dutchness’ while living in the Netherlands?
Here is a list to inspire you, based on some of the ways the Dutch celebrate Christmas at home.
Put up the decorations
Whether you are going for all one colour or prefer a multi-coloured effect, putting up the Christmas decorations is a must in the Netherlands. Each year the number of sparkling lights and Christmas baubles increases. However, if you find yourself lacking in inspiration, head over to your nearest Intratuin or other garden centre where they have the most overwhelming choice.
Prepare for two Christmas Days
The Netherlands celebrates Christmas on both December 25th and December 26th, known as first and second Christmas Day (Eerste Kerstdag and Tweede Kerstdag). While two Christmas Days doesn’t necessarily mean more presents, it does mean more time for celebrating!
Watch Serious Request
Begun in 2004 by the radio station 3FM, Serious Request quickly became an annual event in the Netherlands. Each year a makeshift radio studio is built in the form of a small glass house. Inside three DJs are ‘locked’ inside for the week before Christmas without food.
Sustained on nutritional (and sometimes disgusting sounding) juices, the DJs broadcast around the clock while encouraging donations for their chosen International Red Cross project. Nowadays, a television live-stream has even been added. While the Glass House location, DJs, and Red Cross project change each year, one thing remains constant—this is a hugely popular event on the Dutch holiday calendar which raises millions of euros for charity each year.
Christmas in the Netherlands includes its fair share of food. And while some food items are more traditional than others, it really is an anything goes scenario when it comes to designing the menu. Many people enjoy gourmetten—an activity similar to the Korean BBQ or Vietnamese hot pot. You’ll use tiny pans and spatulas to cook equally tiny hamburgers, sausages, vegetables, pancakes and other items on a hot griddle.
Eat some more
While the Dutch Christmas menu is full of variation, there are some food items that really come into the spotlight during the Christmas season. Be sure to enjoy delicacies such as Kerststol, Kerstkransjes, and appelflappen.
Like many countries, swapping gifts with family members and friends on Christmas Day is also a Dutch tradition. Unless you are part of a family that prefers to combine the Sinterklaas and Christmas holidays. But if that’s the case, go ahead and buy yourself something extra this year. We promise not to tell!
Play (board) games
One of the best times of year to dust off the family board games is during the Christmas holidays. There’s something special about a full stomach, a glass of something alcoholic to hand, and a lively game of Risk.
Listen to (Dutch) Christmas songs
Turn the radio on in the run up to Christmas and you will find plenty of Christmas songs to get you in the festive mood—both in Dutch and English. One particular Dutch favourite is the song Flappie by the comedian Youp van ‘t Hek. Written in 1978, it’s a Christmas song with a dark theme (especially for animal lovers), but Wikipedia has a good summary for those of you that want to know what it is all about.
No matter how you decide to celebrate your Dutch Christmas this year, the most important element to add is a good dose of gezelligheid! If you are looking for a home away from home, ServicedApartments.nl offers short and long-term rentals – the perfect place for unpacking your old and new holiday traditions whilst working abroad.