The Dutch have a bizarre array of traditions, some of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Whether it’s an ice cold swim on New Year’s Day or a street party for the King’s birthday, experiencing one of these typically Dutch events is an absolute must on your next visit to Holland.
1. New year’s day dive
Age old hangover cure or fresh start to the year? We don’t know exactly why they do it, but Dutchies all over the country take a swim in the freezing North Sea every year on the 1st of January. The most popular location is Scheveningen, the Hague, and the ice cold dip is followed by a warming cup of pea soup. We dare you to try it! Book your NYE getaway in Holland now.
Most of us are familiar with carnival as Mardi Gras, traditionally celebrated in far-flung cities like New Orleans. Holland, however, puts on one of Europe’s most lively renditions of Mardi Gras between the 7th and 9th of February. People go all out to celebrate carnival and the further south you go, the more extreme the experience. Visit Maastricht this February and expect outlandish outfits, extravagant floats and plenty of hedonism.
World famous for their amazing tulips, the Dutch put on the best show in March at the Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe. Each year, the Keukenhof opens its gardens with an inspired and innovative show of flowers, often in collaboration with famous Dutch artists. An exquisite combination of art and nature, visiting the Keukenhof when it opens between March and May is the best way to greet spring.
4. King’s day
If you haven’t already heard of King’s day, or Queen’s day depending on whose occupying the throne, you will not believe the level the Dutch go to for their monarchs. Celebrated on the 27th of April, the birthday of King Willem-Alexander, citizens don their brightest orange attire and head to the streets where there’s music, parades, food, drink and dancing.
5. National mill day
As you probably know, the Netherlands is also famous for its windmills. Each year on the second weekend of May, 950 working wind and watermills are decorated and opened to the public. This is a wonderful event for families as most of the mills organise fun activities for children.
6. Flag day
Flag day doesn’t sound particularly exciting, but we promise you it becomes crowded with fishing boats and the restaurants serve the most delicious just-caught seafood you can imagine. Fisherman’s wives dress up in traditional costume and the Dutch herring fleet is launched. Held on the 18th of June, this age-old tradition includes music, wine, children’s games and heaps of herring.
7. Rotterdam summer carnival
As if one carnival per year isn’t enough, the Dutch celebrate carnival a second time in the summer. Rather than travelling all the way to Rio, you can pop across the pond to Rotterdam and experience the glitz and glamour of Brazil in the streets of Holland. Think Latin music, delicious street food and exciting parades.
8. Gay pride
Amsterdam is famous for being one of Europe’s most gay-friendly cities. What sets Amsterdam’s gay pride apart from the rest is the Canal Parade, flaunting over a hundred colourfully decorated boats featuring loud music and even louder clothing. The city also boasts many outdoor discos, theatre performances and a film festival.
Perhaps the weirdest Dutch tradition of them all, Sinterklaas is a mythical figure based on Saint Nicholas, but very different to the Santa Claus we are familiar with. Sinterklaas has long white hair, a full beard and a red cape. He rides a white horse and is accompanied by his helpers, Zwarte Piet, usually portrayed by men in blackface. This increasingly controversial figure is changing in favour of a more appropriate 21st century celebration, but the weirdness does not end there. Sinterklaas also arrives from Spain on a boat and hands out sweets to hordes of children. Don’t believe us? Come and see for yourselves!
Book your next holiday to Holland
Want to experience one of these bizarre Dutch events for yourself? Have a look at our holiday parks in Holland and step into the surreal world of the Hollander.