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Have yourself a very merry Dutch Christmas – without the hype

Words that might be associated with Dutch people, or the Dutch lifestyle could be “down to earth, direct, frugal”. Same goes for the Dutch Christmas!

I’ve heard the Dutch described as a “call a spade a spade” kind of nation. Things are as they are without too much airs and graces and certainly no pomp and circumstance. Even the King on King’s Day arrives by train to shake people’s hands with his entire family. When people invite you to their house, they actually mean it and the Dutch will almost always certainly want to go Dutch just so things are totally and very transparently divided.

So, what is this ‘Dutch Christmas’?

If you are new to this country these characteristics might take a little bit of time getting used to. You couldn’t be blamed for, at times, finding the Dutch a little bit too cautious and sensible. But if there is ever a great time for these sense and sensibilities, then it is Christmas time.

Where other countries start the festive hype soon after the summer holidays, with the first Christmas crackers and fancy biscuit tins appearing on the shelves in the supermarkets, in the Netherlands you have to wait well into November to see any tinsel. Without a doubt, in the UK, someone on some radio station will at some time in September give you the magic number of days until Christmas Day, but the Dutch consider that level of anticipation too over the top.

There is no major saving up for the festive season or people going into major debts just to put glitter and glamour under the Christmas tree. These are not the kind of things that make sense to a Dutchie. A thoughtful kleinigheidje (something small) or in general keeping it small, in keeping with the size of the country, is a generally totally appreciated and understood by everyone (also Dutch). There is no need to buy presents for aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, neighbours, the head of the school and the vicar. A Dutch person might at best send a card, an e-mail but, of course, with the warmest well-meant wishes.

I’ve come to realise that it is quite refreshing. A real relief that there is no need to suffer endless months of Christmas advertising, or worst still, reluctantly join the endless food discussions, watch non-stop food shows and plan the Christmas Day turkey roast, inclusive of stuffing, sprouts and crackers.

Cities get into the spirit as well, just a bit later than the rest of the world! Image: Kirsten de Bouter Shillam.

What to do on your very own Dutch Christmas

The Dutch approach Christmas not necessarily frugally (although there is an element of that, always), but it is much more a genuinely enjoyed family feast. An opportunity to get together with the people or family you like hanging out with and have a borrel (an alcoholic drink).

No need to write to Santa or leave out a carrot or a mince pie. Nevertheless, there might be a few little things under the tree, the family games will most definitely come out, church may receive a visit, some TV may be watched and then as a highlight, you get to eat a DIY Christmas dinner. Yes, a DIY dinner, the Dutch Christmas style.

See the Dutch have a perfect solution to all that food preparation. Just get all the raw ingredients in miniature pan and get all the guests to cook it themselves. It’s called gourmetten and is actually great fun. And when you have enjoyed Christmas Day with the family, then you get to do it all over again the following day, as Boxing Day is actually called Second Christmas Day. Down to earth, Dutch Christmas and double the fun.

festive food
Dutch Christmas is just gezelliger! Image: Pixel.la/Flickr

Are you planning to celebrate Christmas like the Dutch? What’s your favourite part? Let us know in the comments below!

Feature Image: Dana Tentis/Pexels

Kirsten de Bouter Shillam
Kirsten de Bouter Shillam
For 26 years Kirsten lived abroad before returning to her “home” country the Netherlands. The re-integration has been a weird and wonderful journey as described in her TEDx talk, but she is slowly settling back into the flat, cold and honest land. With a family that “crosses borders” there are still plenty of daily eyebrow raisers and hilarious confusions. Kirsten works as a speaker, coach and writer.


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