Wooden eggs, hares and fires: How to celebrate Easter the Dutch way

Photo: Pxhere.com
Photo: Pxhere.com

Easter (Goede Vrijdag, 1e and 2e Paasdag) takes place this weekend. Easter Monday is a public holiday but Friday is a normal working day, apart from government workers, lucky things. Here is our list of Dutch Easter habits.

Easter breakfast box
If you have children at a Dutch primary school, they, rather you, will probably have to make an Easter breakfast box which they will give to another child in their class. This is a shoe box beautifully decorated with Eastery things and should contain all the ingredients for a delicious breakfast. Some schools have banned jam and sweet things, white bread and even chocolate eggs… which is a little odd. But hey, a cheese sandwich can be festive as well.

An extended breakfast with all the family and friends on Easter Sunday – and possibly Monday if you are greedy. All sorts of rolls, cheese, ham, eggs, eggs and eggs. You may find the butter is in the shape of a little spring lamb (aah). Brunch will also include Paasbrood. We are not sure what the difference is with Kerstbrood apart from the fact it is wrapped in a yellow bow rather than a red one. No Easter brunch is complete without matsos – the Jewish crackers.

The Dutch are very keen on Easter eggs and spring-related decorations, and many homes will put up willow branches hung with tiny wooden eggs and bows. Over the years these have become bigger and more elaborate, the supermarket shelves are groaning under ornaments and soon they will resemble Christmas trees.

Egg painting
The Dutch also like to paint boiled eggs in pretty patterns. If you want to do this, be sure to buy a proper egg stand at Blokker or Intertoys so you can colour your egg without getting paint all over your fingers and the rest of the eggs in the box. Easter egg painting is number 5 on the Dutch folklore centre’s list of the top 10 Dutch traditions.

The Easter Hare
Yes, the Dutch do have Easter egg hunts but don’t forget, the Netherlands has a Paashaas – Easter hare – rather than a bunny – well, it does rhyme better.

Flower at St Peters in Rome
The Dutch flower industry has for decades supplied the thousands of tulips and other flowers which are sent to Rome to decorate St Peter’s for the pope’s Easter day appearance. Every year the pope – wherever he comes from – says in his best Dutch ‘bedankt voor de bloemen’ the highlight of the Dutch television news coverage.

This year it looked as if coronavirus had killed off this Dutch Easter tradition because the long standing flower provider pulled out, citing a lack of sponsors after two years of disappointment However, disaster has been averted and a new team has been found. But will the pope say ‘bedankt voor de bloemen’ as he always does?

Easter attractions
There are, of course, Easter markets, special Easter brunches at restaurants and Easter events at amusement parks.  And there is the Paaspop festival which has taken place over the Easter weekend in the Noord-Brabant town of Schijndel since 1985. Paaspop, which attracts some 15,000 people, is seen as the unofficial start of the Dutch festival season. Frans Ferdinand, The Chainsmokers and Guus Meeus are among this year’s acts. Check out our April What’s On for more suggestions.

Many Dutch people also seem to consider visiting an out-of-town retail park selling furniture – a woonboulevard – to be a traditional Easter activity.

Easter fires
Easter fires are lit in various parts of Europe and probably have pagan origins. In the Netherlands, most are found in Drenthe, Groningen, Overijssel, Twente, Friesland and Gelderland but there are all sorts of regional variations about what is burnt and when. The village of Espelo in Overijssel has the world record for the highest hand-built Easter fire – 27 meters and no cranes allowed.

St Matthew Passion
This work by Johann Sebastian Bach is always performed at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam on Good Friday (two performances) and at concert halls all over the country. It is the sort of thing which people say you should have done once in your life. Some people go every year.

More holidays to come
Depending on where you work, you have a few more days off to come in the next few weeks, starting with Kings Day on April 27, followed by Hemelvaartsdag (Acension Day on May 26) and Pinksteren (Whitsun on June 5). Bevrijdingsdag (Liberation Day on May 5) is not a public holiday but feels like one, with flags and festivals galore.

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