National Holidays in Holland

There are several main public holidays in Holland. There are various festivities and celebrations associated with the different holidays. Some days are not public holidays, but there are traditional celebrations. January the 1st, New Year’s Day, is a holiday in Holland. People typically go to parties the night before, known as Old Year’s Day in Holland, and so New Year’s Day is usually a quieter, often family, affair. Apple fritters and doughnut balls are commonly eaten. On Old Year’s Day, fireworks are sent exploding into the night sky, best wishes are exchanged at midnight, and people will kiss each other on the cheeks. It is a very merry night. On New Year’s Day, some people may take part in the New Year’s Dive. This sees people heading into the icy North Sea to celebrate the first day of the New Year! There is a big fun-filled carnival in February, with many people donning elaborate costumes to party in the streets.

Easter is celebrated in March or April, depending on the date set by the Church. Both Good Friday and Easter Sunday are celebrated, as in many other countries or within Christian communities or households. One Easter tradition in Holland is to hold an Easter egg hunt for children, whereby chocolate eggs and other Easter treats are hidden and the children must find them.

King’s Day on April the 27th will celebrate the birthday of King Willem Alexander. As a fairly new monarch at the time of writing, there have been no birthday celebrations in his honour as yet. The former Queen’s birthday though was celebrated with much gusto and enthusiasm, and it is likely the King’s birthday will see as much fun and frivolity.

The 4th of May is Remembrance Day in Holland. It is not a public holiday. At 8pm, two minutes of silence are observed to honour, respect and remember all those who have died in battle since World War Two. Wreaths are laid at the National Monument in Amsterdam, and there is a service to commemorate those who died. Whist regularly not a public holiday, Liberation Day, on May the 5th, celebrates the defeat of the German military in the Second World War. It is a public holiday every five years, and at this time there are huge festivities and celebrations.

The Flag Day celebrations are not marked by a public holiday. Flag Day is on the second Saturday of June. Scheveningen Harbour sees droves of people going to celebrate the start of the herring season. Fishing boats are decked in colourful flags that flutter gaily in the breeze, creating a really striking sight in the sea. Ascension Day occurs 40 days after Easter and celebrates the day that Jesus Christ is said to have ascended to heaven, following on from his resurrection. Pentecost is celebrated for two days, Pentecost Sunday and Pentecost Monday, seven weeks after Easter. It marks the time when the Holy Spirit is said to have descended to the Apostles.

An important day, although not a national holiday, was the Royal Speech Day. Held on the third Tuesday in September, it was when the Queen would speak to Parliament and the government would disclose its plans for the year ahead. Crowds would take to the streets to line the route the Queen would take from the Palace to the Binnenhof. It is likely the King will continue to speak with parliament on the same day.

On November the 11th, called Martinmas, many children visit houses, singing songs and carrying lanterns. A similar concept to carol singing, they are often rewarded with sweets or cookies. December the 5th is not a national holiday, but is a fun day for children when they receive gifts from Saint Nicholas. The day is called Saint Nicholas’ Eve, and children receive their goodies in the evening.

Christmas Day is celebrated on December the 25th, as with the vast majority of the Christian world. The following day is also a holiday. Gifts are not usually given at Christmas, because of the earlier Saint Nicholas Eve traditions, although some families may give a few mementos, or forgo Saint Nicholas Eve gifts in order to give at Christmas instead. It is a time for families to be together. Most homes have a decorated Christmas tree, and the typical Christmas meal will consist of pheasant or rabbit. Stollen is also often eaten, which is a heavy, sweet type of bread stuffed with raisins and almond paste. Charming Christmas Markets operate in the preceding weeks in many areas of the country, and are really lovely to visit.