Top Christmas Traditions in the Netherlands

Christmas is just around the corner and what better time than now to take a look at some of the top Christmas traditions to be found in the Netherlands.

Two Christmas Days

While other countries put an extra emphasis on the day before December 25th, the Netherlands has decided to include the day after. First and Second Christmas Day (Eerste Kerstdag – December 25th and Tweede Kerstdag – December 26th) are both equally celebrated and considered public holidays by the Dutch. Usually the two days are split between the two sides of the family, or for some, the first day is spent with family while the second is used to relax, recover, or even shop.

Christmas Markets

When it comes to Christmas markets, Germany tends to take all the credit, but there are a number of festive markets in the Netherlands, as well. Valkenburg has a Christmas market in its underground city caves. Maastricht, with its Ferris wheel and indoor ice rink, is always a family favourite. And the whole city of Dordrecht participates in the Dordrecht Christmas Market.

Christmas Events

If Christmas markets aren’t quite your thing, then head to one of the many traditional Christmas events happening around the country. For example, the yearly Dickens Festival in the heart of Deventer, the wintry atmosphere of the Winter Efteling, or winter concerts, skating, and sledding at the Open Air Museum (Openluchtmusem) in Arnhem.

Ice Skating

While snow doesn’t often grace the Netherlands with its presence until earlier in the New Year (although never say never!), what does tend to hit the country is the cold. And right on its heels is ice skating fever. The ice hasn’t been thick enough for an Elfstedentocht (Eleven cities tour), a long-distance skating event of almost 200 kilometres, since 1997, but that doesn’t mean ice skating can’t go ahead. You’ll find the Dutch living it up on both artificial and natural ice, indoors and outdoors.


Gourmetten – meat, vegetables, even pancakes – cooked on a communal table top grill, is a popular food tradition around Christmas time. Supermarkets go out of their way to package up small sausages, mini hamburgers, and pieces of chicken and beef to be cooked alongside mushrooms, onion, paprika, and anything else you can think of to throw on the grill. Gezellig, toch?

What is your favourite Dutch Christmas tradition?

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