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Christmas in The Netherlands: A Celebration of Traditions and Togetherness

Discover the Enchanting Dutch Christmas Celebrations, from Sinterklaas to Gourmetten

Christmas in the Netherlands is a festive time, filled with joy, laughter, and a strong sense of togetherness. The Dutch celebrate this holiday season with their unique customs, delicious food, and special events. In this article, we will explore the enchanting world of Dutch Christmas traditions and how they make the season an unforgettable experience.


Sinterklaas: The Dutch Santa Claus

Sinterklaas and His Arrival

Before Christmas Day, the Dutch celebrate the feast of Sinterklaas, which takes place on December 5th. Sinterklaas, also known as Saint Nicholas, is the Dutch version of Santa Claus. He arrives in the Netherlands by steamboat from Spain, accompanied by his helpers, the ‘Zwarte Pieten’ (Black Peters). The arrival of Sinterklaas is a grand event, with parades and celebrations taking place throughout the country.


Gifts and Surprises

On the evening of December 5th, Sinterklaas and his helpers deliver gifts to children. The Dutch believe that Sinterklaas visits each house, leaving presents for the children who have been good throughout the year. These gifts are often accompanied by humorous, personalized poems written by the gift-giver.


Christmas Traditions

Christmas Trees and Decorations

Dutch families usually put up their Christmas trees and decorations in early December. Many homes feature beautiful displays of lights and ornaments, creating a warm and inviting atmosphere. In addition to the tree, it’s common to see Advent wreaths and calendars as part of the holiday decorations.


Kerstpakket: The Christmas Gift Box

A popular tradition in the Netherlands is the giving of ‘Kerstpakket’ – Christmas gift boxes filled with treats, delicacies, and small gifts. Employers often present these boxes to their employees as a token of appreciation for their hard work throughout the year.


Festive Foods

Gourmetten: A Dutch Culinary Tradition

A common Dutch tradition during Christmas is ‘Gourmetten,’ a fun and interactive way of dining. Families gather around a tabletop grill or hot plate, cooking various meats, vegetables, and sauces together. This shared experience creates a festive and social atmosphere, allowing everyone to enjoy the meal at their own pace.


Sweet Delights

The Dutch are known for their delicious sweets and pastries during the Christmas season. Some popular treats include ‘kruidnoten’ (spiced cookies), ‘speculaas’ (spiced biscuits), and ‘oliebollen’ (Dutch doughnuts). These delectable treats add a touch of sweetness to the holiday celebrations.


Christmas Celebrations

Christmas Markets

The Netherlands is famous for its charming Christmas markets, which are held in various cities throughout the country. These markets offer a wide array of seasonal goods, food, and entertainment, making them a perfect destination for holiday shopping and festive cheer.


Candlelight Tours

In some Dutch towns, candlelight tours take place during the Christmas season. These tours guide visitors through the historical streets, with buildings and homes illuminated by candles and fairy lights. The tours create a magical atmosphere, showcasing the beauty of Dutch architecture and history.



Christmas in the Netherlands is a heartwarming celebration of family, friends, and traditions. From the arrival of Sinterklaas to the delightful culinary experiences, the Dutch embrace the holiday season with warmth and joy. If you ever have the opportunity to spend Christmas in the Netherlands, be prepared to immerse yourself in the unique customs and festivities that make it a truly special experience.

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