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Celebrating New Year in the Netherlands

The Spanish traditionally eat grapes, the Scots warm up at street parties with a nip of whiskey and perhaps most curiously of all, the Italians don red underwear. But what do the Dutch typically do on New Year’s Eve?

New years eve in Holland

Eating Oliebollen

Oliebollen are a traditional Dutch snack, which although almost impossible to find outside of the Netherlands and Belgium, are consumed in their millions on New Year’s Eve in Holland. Similar to doughnuts, oliebollen are prepared from batter, often containing currants, candied peel or chunks of apple, and fried until a tempting golden brown. They are best served fresh, warm and with a generous dusting of icing sugar. Many Dutch still go to the trouble of preparing homemade Oliebollen for the New Year’s Eve celebrations, however you can also purchase them from the typical Dutch Oliebollen vans that arrive in Dutch towns and cities towards the end of the year.

Watching the Oudejaarsconferentie on TV

On New Year’s Eve Dutch television broadcasts the ever-popular ‘Oudejaarsconferentie’ – a cabaret show, which takes a light hearted and fun look at events of the last year. The programme is a favourite with Dutch families and in particular the older generation, but be warned – you need a firm grasp of the Dutch language to be able understand much of the humour.

Setting off fireworks

Unlike many countries in the world, setting off fireworks on the street is still permitted in the Netherlands. Fireworks are sold in special shops during the run-up to the celebrations, but in an attempt to minimise the disturbance, can only be used on New Year’s Eve. The Dutch youth favour extremely loud firecrackers, which make as much noise as possible, whilst families tend to opt for a more visual display. Although some cities in the Netherlands now organise a New Year’s Eve fireworks display, most fireworks are still set off by individuals on the street and as a result, New Year’s Eve can be a deafening event!

Drinking Champagne

The majority of Dutch people celebrate New Year’s Eve together at home with family or friends. When the clock strikes midnight, they ceremoniously crack open a bottle of champagne and kiss each other three times on the cheek amongst heartfelt cries of “Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!” (Happy New Year). After a few sips of bubbly, they swarm out onto the streets to enjoy the fireworks and wish their neighbours a Happy New Year. Afterwards young people usually go on to a pub or club, where they party with friends until the early hours.

Taking part in the nieuwjaarsduik (New Years Dive)

On New Year’s Day some of the more daring Dutch take a traditional dip in the icy waters of the North Sea, the Wadden Sea or one of the many Dutch lakes, dressed only in a swimming costume or trunks. The nieuwjaarsduik in Scheveningen is sponsored by Unox, famous Dutch manufacturer of rookworst (smoked sausage) and erwtensoep (pea soup), and easily attracts the most visitors. However, the annual nieuwjaarsduik in Amsterdam, De Meern, Rotterdam and Wassenaarseslag are also extremely popular.

Prefer to read this article in Dutch? Then why not visit to our sister blog, heimwee.info, specifically intended for Dutch emigrants abroad?

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