In the Netherlands, Christmas is a two-day affair, celebrated mainly on the 25th and 26th of December. It is one of the most awaited festivals of the year and is observed with much fanfare and enthusiasm. The Dutch celebrate this occasion by decorating their homes and gardens. The streets and stores are wonderfully adored, each displaying a colorful façade. The celebration starts as early as December 5. The day is commemorated to celebrate the arrival of Sinterklaas Avond or St. Nicholas Eve. Unlike many other countries, the concept of Santa Claus giving gifts is not present. Instead, in Netherland, St. Nicholas hands over the presents to all the good children.
Christmas Celebrations in Netherland
St Nicolas Day is a very special occasion for the Dutch, who celebrate the festival with much glory and grandeur. On St Nicholas Eve, children put out hay for Sinterklaas's white horse and set out their shoes, in anticipation of the candy and presents that they would receive. On December 6 i.e. St Nicholas Day, people celebrate the festival with family and close relatives, after which starts the preparation for the D-Day or Christmas. The Dutch families start with cleaning and purification of the house. Once the cleaning is done, decorations start.
Around Christmas, houses, streets and stores in Netherlands look majestic and royal in their new found style. In case of Christmas tree, known as Paradise tree, people either go for the artificial tree available in the stores or buy the real pine trees. Some people even build wooden Christmas pyramids and decorate them with evergreens and candles. Glass baubles, bells and stars, small electric lights and other items of adornments are also seen on the Christmas tree. The custom of Midwinter Horn Blowing is still practiced in some parts of the Netherlands, which basically starts on Advent Sunday and continues until Christmas Eve.
At dusk, farmers take long horns made from elder trees and blow them while standing over wells. The well, in return, lends an eerie sound to the call, which states the announcement of the coming Christ. Unlike the western countries, Christmas is celebrated on two days, in Netherland. On the First day of Christmas, the Christmas tree is lit with real candles. People attend prayers in the church, after which families gather together to eat dinner, at a candle-lit table that is decorated with green, white and red trimmings.
Venison, hare, goose or turkey, along with Kerstbrood (Christmas loaf), Kerstkrans (Christmas Ring) and different kinds of puddings, are served in dinner. Once it is over, the family sits together and sings Christmas carols and narrates the birth of Jesus. The Second Day of Christmas is basically a leisure holiday. On this day, the Dutch people relax and unwind themselves. Attending plays or going to the restaurant are some of the favorite activities they indulge in. All in all, Christmas in the Netherlands is the time for indulging in sanctimonious practices and merry making.