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These days few Dutch actually remember the true meaning of Easter or indeed, what the unique Dutch Easter traditions really are. Which is a great shame, because Easter is a truly special occasion that involves far more than a simple Easter egg hunt or eating copious amounts of chocolate bunnies.
Whilst the Easter celebration is mainly of Christian origin, several non-Christian traditions have been incorporated over the course of time, some of which even date back to the pre-Christian period. The Dutch Easter spans two days, Eerste and Tweede Paasdag (Easter Sunday and Easter Monday) and is preceded by Goede Vrijdag (Good Friday), a Christian holiday, which the Dutch often enjoy as an additional day off.
Below is a list of typical Dutch Easter activities that you are likely to stumble across when visiting the Netherlands at this lovely time of year:
1. Dutch Easter breakfast or Easter brunch
Both Easter breakfast and Easter brunch are extremely popular in the Netherlands – on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday the Dutch love to treat themselves to an extended breakfast or brunch that includes a feast of gaily painted boiled eggs, fresh breads, croissants and rolls and a selection of Dutch Easter goodies such as Dutch cheese, paasstol (Easter bread) and matzo crackers.
Dutch children in particular look forward to Easter, because this is when they get to paint hard-boiled eggs. The eggs are then hidden inside the house or, if the weather permits, outside in the garden for the entire family to hunt down. After the frenzy of the Easter egg hunt, the family typically unwinds by settling down in front of the television to watch the Pope’s Easter speech.
3. Dutch Easter entertainment
Dutch TV channels and cinemas tend to broadcast a selection of films with a traditional Easter theme, such as Jesus Christ Superstar or Ben Hur, throughout the Easter holidays. In addition, local concert halls often put on a special Easter performance of the St. Matthew Passion, which is well worth attending.
4. Easter bonfires
In the Dutch provinces of Drenthe, Groningen, Friesland, Overijssel, North Brabant and Gelderland, towns and villages mark Easter by lighting a huge bonfire on Easter Sunday or Monday. This tradition of lighting an Easter bonfire is extremely old and dates back to the pre-Christian period.
5. Vlöggeln and Paasstaakslepen
Certain Dutch Easter traditions are specific to a Dutch town or village, such as ‘vlöggeln’ in Ootmarsum and ‘paasstaakslepen’ in Denekamp. Vlöggeln consists of a lively village procession, headed by eight so-called ‘Poaskearls’ (Easter guys), who sing old Easter songs as they go. Paasstaakslepen involves a group of hardy Denekamp locals venturing into the woods to chop down a tree, which is then dragged back to the village and erected with a tub of burning tar at its top. Both the vlöggeln and paasstaakslepen celebrations culminate in a large Easter bonfire.
6. Easter shopping and Dutch theme parks
Thanks to the extended opening hours, agreed in the Netherlands in the nineties, shops, garden centres and do-it-yourself stores are all open on Easter Monday, enabling shopaholics and families alike to enjoy a day out in the town. The Dutch also like to take advantage of the Easter break by visiting a Dutch theme park such as the Efteling, Walibi Flevoland and Het Land Van Ooit.
Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit to our sister blog, heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?