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O, Denneboom: How the Dutch let the light into their lives around Christmas time

O, Denneboom: How the Dutch let the light into their lives around Christmas time

Sinterklaas has left the country on his steamship back to Spain, and that means it is time for the Christmas trees to arrive in and around the Dutch homes! Traditionally, after december 5th, the Dutch go shopping for their Christmas tree and transform their houses into true Christmas palaces. Are you ready to find out about how the sober Dutch people go crazy around Christmas time?

Lights in the darkness

As December 21th is the shortest day of the year in the Netherlands, and the sun has set as early as 5:30pm, the Dutch love to light up their lives by putting kerstlichtjes (Christmas lights) everywhere in and around their houses. Especially in these crazy times, there is even more reason to light things up a little! Apart from the many lights that decorate the kerstbomen (Christmas trees), the fairy lights can be found around porches, window frames and in front and back yards. Public spaces in the Netherlands are also provided with light decorations and illuminated Christmas trees: the kerstsfeer (Christmas spirit) is present everywhere!

Less is more?

Although the Dutch are often seen as sober and reserved, this does not apply to Christmas decorations: the more, the flashier, the better! Doe maar normaal, dan doe je al gek genoeg, is a motto Dutch people live by most of the year.[1] But when it comes to Christmas, they leave Calvinism aside for a while. Christmas trees are ideally as big as the ceiling allows. Some people like to pick up a real pine tree, but many people rather save the trouble and take their fake tree from the attic every year. Christmas lights are preferably put in flicker mode, and the kerstballen (baubles), linten (ribbons) and slingers (garlands) can’t be shiny and sparkly enough.

Spoiled by the employer

Another typical Dutch Christmas tradition that does not necessarily fit the stereotype of the Dutch being nuchter (sober) and zuinig (frugal): Dutch employers love to pamper their employees with kerstpakketten! These are surprise boxes full of Christmas gifts. The content of the kerstpakketten can vary from wine, cheese and other delicacies to bathing products, cosmetics, candles, gift cards and many more. This tradition is so popular and widespread, that putting together and selling kerstpakketten to companies is even a stand-alone business branch in the Netherlands!

So, are you surprised by the way in which the Christmas spirit even gets a hold of the down-to-earth Dutch? Christmas is one of the favorite and most exuberantly celebrated holidays in the Netherlands, and therefore an important part of Dutch culture. Would you like to learn more about how Dutch give meaning to traditions? We offer various courses that introduce you not only to the Dutch language, but also to its diverse culture. Check out our website for more information!

[1] A famous saying that is typical for the Dutch calvinist culture, translated as ‘Just act normal, then you’re already acting crazy enough.’