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Christmas Traditions in Holland

Christmas in HollandChristmas is a fairly important holiday worldwide. In Holland presents aren’t exchanged on the 25th but on December 5, which is St. Nicholas’ Eve. Known as Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, St. Nicholas arrives not by carriage and reindeer but by steamer and white horse. When he and his servant Black Peter arrive in town all business stops and children set out their shoes in preparation of candy and presents. After greeting the mayor a parade leads Nich and Peter to the Palace where the royal children await him to account for their transgressions. Once their character has been measured the parade continues on to a major hotel where Nick ‘sets up shop’. There are no elves, no north pole, and no factory of toys. Surprises, as the Dutch refer to presents, are given out on the eve of St. Nicholas’s feast day. On December 7th, when he heads back to Spain, everyone begins to get ready for Christmas, which lasts for two days rather than one as it would in the states.

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The first day, the 25th is dedicated to Christmas dinners, lighting the tree, singing carols, etc. The 26th, which is the second Christmas day is reserved for leisure activities. In Holland Christmas is a celebration involving the entire village. The Midwinter Horn blowing is practiced before Christmas on Advent Sunday until Christmas Eve. Farmers take long horns, made from elder trees, and while standing over a well, sound a call that is supposed to herald the coming of Christ. The notes from the horn can reach for miles and is eerie in the silence of the winter night. The tradition is common in parts of the rural east.

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