From Gouda by candlelight to a Christmas Carol – a round-up of holiday family fun

Kerstspel. Photo: Muziekgebouw aan t' IJ
Kerstspel. Photo: Muziekgebouw aan t’ IJ

The school holidays are finally coming up! Esther O’Toole has a run down of special Christmas events and activities, for young and old, up and down the country, traditional and alternative; starting on December 15.

Countrywide: winter circuses
A trip to the circus is a popular Dutch tradition at Christmas. You will find Christmas Circuses all over: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Haarlem, Nijmegen, Sittard…Eindhoven’s will be in the Park Theater and offers lots of extra activities for kids throughout the building, so you can really make a day of it. Website

Amsterdam: Kerstspel, Muziekgebouw aan ‘t IJ
There are more than 10 special events going on at the Muziekgebouw this holiday season. Including a new tradition of their own making – Kerstspel. A modern Christmas concert to inspire your littlens as they watch performers as young as 4 years old perform alongside the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. Website

Amsterdam: The Christmas Show, Ziggo Dome
It wouldn’t be the season of ‘goodwill to all men’ if there wasn’t a performance inspired by A Christmas Carol going on somewhere. If you’re looking for a new take on an old tale then you can head to the Ziggo Dome on December 23 and 24 for the annual song and dance extravaganza, which this year is based on the Dickens classic and features lot of Dutch celebrities. Website

More on celebrating the holiday season in Amsterdam

Arnhem: Open Air museum
It may be chilly, but there is still plenty of wintertime fun to be had outside. At the open air museum in Arnhem there will be skating, sledging and you can bake your own bread over an open fire. If the weather gets really inclement you can always retreat to the ‘play shed’ for shed-loads of good old-fashioned family games. Website

Gouda: Candle Night
Gouda may be best known for its cheese but their annual Kaarsjesavond (Candle Night) deserves to be well known too. This year on December 15th all electric lights will be turned off, and the festivities around the town Christmas tree (music & singing, food and theatre) will all take place by candlelight. Website

Maastricht: Magical Maastricht, Het Vrijhof
There are Christmas markets all around the country but Maastricht’s has been completely revamped for 2017 to be bigger and better than ever. Their covered ice rink even has disco skating! Website

Maastricht: The Christmas Elf Mystery (4-10), departs from Minister Goeman Borgesius Plantsoen
Here’s one for those bilingual families. The Christmas Elf Mystery is an underground treasure hunt in the tunnels under the city! Help Father Christmas find the key to the sleigh that his trickster elf has hidden. December 23 at 16:00, 17:00 and 18:00. Don’t forget your torch! Website

Nijmegen: Festival of Light
Explore the Christmas story at the Museum Park Orientalis, dress up as a shepherd, take a donkey for a walk and listen to storytellers while stuffing yourself with oliebollen. Different activities are going on throughout the park, both indoors and out. From December 16. Website

Oud Kampen: Open air theatre festival
A cheap and cheerful day out can be had on December 17 and 18, as the streets of Oud Kampen fill up with theatre activities for young and old. Entry is just €2 per person, a bargain! From 16.00 hours. Website

Rotterdam: Pillow Party, Ahoy
If the teens are getting stir crazy and are glued to their tablets, why not take them down to the Ahoy and reintroduce them to the charitable spirit of Christmas while letting them go nuts at Rotterdam’s annual Pillow Party? Proceeds from the giant pillow fight go to help Dutch children living in poverty celebrate their birthdays. December 15, from 20.30, pillows provided! Website

More on celebrating Christmas in Rotterdam

Photo: STET

The Hague: Winter Wondertales (5+), Paradise Theatre
Alongside their own production of the Charles Dickens story, performed by Ashley Ramsden, English Language theatre company STET has a new show to warm little hearts this year. Storyteller Caja will take you all on a magical journey with her repertoire of original short stories. December 16 and 17. Website

The Hague: New Year’s Dive – Scheveningen beach
The crazy antics of a few swimmers has grown into a real tradition of taking a ‘penguin dive’ on New Year’s Day. There are now 60 locations around the country where you can join in but the original Scheveningen dip is still the biggest, with an expected 10,000 people taking the plunge at noon on January 1 2018. Website

The Hague: The Pier
If you’d rather enjoy the New Year’s dive at a warm and comfortable distance, then you can stay on the pier! Sup on something tasty from the artisanal food trucks, hit the shops or take a turn on the ferris wheel or the zip wire! Website

More on celebrating the holiday season in The Hague

Utrecht: My First Festival, Tivoli Vredenburg
There’s an eclectic musical offering to be found at this festival for kids, and parents. From pop to Prokofiev there´s something to delight everyone with performances and workshops throughout the day. December 29, family tickets available. Website

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