The Netherlands: Holidays                                       

New Year's Day

Carnival (2 days) beginning of Lent

Good Friday

Easter Monday

Queen's Birthday: April 30th

Liberty Day

Liberation Day

Ascension Day

Whit Monday

Christmas Day: December 25th

Luilak or Lazybones Day                                                                                     

Lazybones Day takes place on the day before Whitsunday in the town of Zaandam. Before dawn young people go into the streets and make noise. They beat on pots and pans, they shout, they whistle and blow horns. They are trying to wake everyone up. If any of their friends do not awaken, they shout this poem outside their window:

Lazybones, tucked in his bed,

Gets up at nine o’clock!

Nine o’clock, half-past nine –

Then you can see Lazybones.

When the lazy friend appears, he must buy candy or cakes for his friends. Bakeries make special Lazybones cakes.

Fisherman’s Harvest

The Fisherman’s Harvest is celebrated in towns near the sea. When it is time to fish for herring, the village people go to the wharf to see the fisherman off. Then the boats rush to the sea to fish. The first load of herring to come to shore is placed in an orange container. (Orange is the official color of the Netherlands.) The container is put into a decorated car that drives to the royal palace where the keg is presented to the Queen.


The queen’s birthday is celebrated on April 30 and is the biggest party in the Netherlands. It is actually the birthday of the Queen mother of the former queen Beatrix (who passed away in 2013). But, because the birthday of queen Beatrix was in the middle of the winter, it was decided to keep celebrating Queen’s Day in April. Many towns are decorated with orange banners. There are parades, performances and flea markets everywhere.

Saint Martin’s Day

Saint Martin’s Day is celebrated in the town of Groningen and is a little like Halloween in the US. The children pretend to be beggars and go from door to door with lanterns. As they walk, they sing silly songs like the ones below:

Here lives a rich man

Who can give us something.

May he live to be very old,

Have a fine death and go to paradise


St. Martin had a cow

That had to go to the butcher.

Whether it was fat or lean,

It had to go to the butcher.

Hooi de booi, hooi de booi!

How beautiful was St. Martin!

Tulip Festival

The Netherlands hosts one of the most beautiful festivals in the spring. The Tulip Festival was created to promote the national treasure and lasts for two weeks beginning the last week of April. The Sunday in the middle of the two weeks is the most important festival day with contests and flower sales. The day is called “Bulb Sunday.”

Although tulips are a national symbol for the Dutch, they actually originated in central Asia and the Near East. The Turks were cultivating tulips as early as 1,000 AD. In their native setting, tulips enjoy high elevations in the mountains covered with a blanket of snow. One might wonder how tulips thrive in the Netherlands where it is flat, at sea level and the winters are extremely wet.

Q: Why do you think tulips grow so well in the Netherlands?

A: The Dutch have devised a clever winter drainage system for the soil that keeps the bulbs in a constant comfortable environment.

Q: Where did the name “tulip” originate?

A: One theory is that the tulip resembles the turban worn in the Middle East. Turban was written as toliban and, when translated into Latin, it became tulipa.

Tulips were first introduced to the Dutch in 1593 by botanist Carolus Clusius. However, Clusius was not a sharing sort of man and refused to give or even sell bulbs to others. However, some people knew that the bulbs would be a profitable investment. So, late one night, some sneaky neighbors paid an unexpected visit to the garden and helped themselves to the bulbs!

Tulips became a status symbol. The wealthy and upper middle class bought them like crazy. Bulbs were highly expensive—as much $1,500 in today's market. Tulipomania was the term used to describe a period in history (1634-1637) when tulip-crazed individuals invested huge amounts of money in tulip bulbs. In 1634, a collector in the Netherlands paid 1,000 pounds of cheese, four oxen, eight pigs, 12 sheep, a bed and a suit of clothes for a single bulb of the Viceroy tulip!!!

Today tulips are the major flower crop in the Netherlands. Each year approximately 3 billion bulbs are produced. Two-thirds are exported and one-third remains in the country. The United States is one of the top importers.


Saint Nicholas’ Day is celebrated on December 5th. While the American Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, Sinterklaas lives in Spain and has a Moorish servant named Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). They arrive by boat and are met by the mayor while the children sing:

Look, there is the steamer from faraway lands.

It brings us Saint Nicholas. He’s waving his hand.

His horse is a-prancing on deck up and down.

The banners are waving in village and town.  

Sinterklaas then parades through town on a white horse as Zwarte Piet throws peppernoten cookies to the crowd.

Children leave their shoes by the fireplace with a carrot or hay inside for the horse. In hopes that Sinterklaas will leave them a treat in their shoes, they sing:

Nicholas I beg of you,

Drop something in my shoe.

Drop something in my boot.

Thank you, Dear Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas will only leave a present if they have been good.

Family and friends also exchange gifts. It is not necessary to give expensive gifts, but the little trinket must be accompanied by a poem about the person it is being given to. To add to the fun, the gifts are wrapped so that they will look like something else. Sometimes the gifts are hidden in foods—such as pudding or cake.

Special holiday treats are eaten during the season. Chocolate letters in the shape of your initial are popular as well as marzipan in every shape and form.


Birthdays are very special in the Netherlands. In almost every Dutch home, you’ll find a birthday calendar hanging in the bathroom! The calendar reminds everyone in the house of their friends’ and relatives’ special days. A birthday is usually acknowledged with a special visit, and the jarige (birthday person) usually stays home so that all their friends can stop by. 

On birthdays people say, “Van Harte Gefeliciteered” (pronounced, van har-TEH geh-fell-ih-CIH-teared), which means “Hearty Congratulations.” Everyone in the family of the birthday person should be congratulated.

The jarige usually serves cookies, birthday cake and pastries. Sometimes they serve cheese, crackers and bitterballen.

Gifts are not expensive. Something small such as flowers or candy is appreciated.

In the Netherlands, a birthday child sits in a special chair decorated with lots of colored paper streamers called slingers.

Many Dutch children have a cake with candles at their birthday party. They may have pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar, too.  Dutch children also eat taartjes (tart-JEHS) on their birthdays, served with lemonade or hot chocolate. Taartjes (photo) are small tarts made with many different kinds of fillings.