Christmas in the Netherlands

How do I wish someone there a Happy Christmas?

  • Prettige Kerstfeest

When do they give presents?

  • The biggest day is December 5. This is St Nicholas Eve, although some people also give gifts on Christmas Day.

Who brings the presents?

  • Sinterklaas – or St Nicholas ­– comes on December 5th. He wears bishop’s robes, travels by horse and has a controversial helper called Zwarte Piet (Black Pete).

What’s on the menu?

  • Dinner on Christmas Day can include roast meat, fondue or gourmetten – a grill placed on the table for guests to cook vegetables and small pieces of meat. There’s also a whole host of festive biscuits, sweet breads and cakes.

Any other traditions I should know about?

  • With the main present giving out of the way in early December, Christmas Day is a less commercial affair. People often go to church and relax at home with their families.
  • Dutch companies often give their employees a kerstpakket – or Christmas hamper. This includes food and other goodies and is given out in the days leading up to Christmas.
  • Kerstman (Father Christmas) does visit Dutch homes on Christmas Eve, but that doesn’t always mean presents on Christmas Day. Compared to Sinterklaas, he’s a very distant second favourite.
  • On New Year’s Eve some areas light huge bonfires made of Christmas trees. There’s usually a spectacular one in Amsterdam Noord.