Dutch New Year’s Traditions and Celebrations

Dutch New Year’s Celebration

Grab an Oliebollen and some fireworks as we get ready to explore the unique madness of
Dutch New Year’s Celebration (or as they call it; Oud en Nieuw). It all starts with Oudejaarsavond (New Year’s Eve) on December 31st and ends with Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year’s Day) on January 1st.

1) Firing Off Lots of Fireworks

Most countries celebrate New Year’s Eve by letting off a few fireworks. They might have a safely organised display of a few brightly coloured rockets. Parents might (responsibly) light the occasional sparkler with their children in the garden and everyone will agree that ten to twenty minutes of celebration is quite enough to mark the passing of the year… Not the Dutch. The Netherlands descends in to complete and total sparkly chaos. At the stroke of midnight it is as if someone tosses a lit match into the countries entire supply of fireworks and it does not run out until (at least) 2am.

The sound can be deafening as the night’s sky lights up with more fireworks than most non-Dutch people have seen in their entire life time. The result can probably be seen from space. Words alone cannot describe the madness. However, the word that comes to most people’s minds is “warzone.” It’s amazing that there is anything left of The Netherlands the following day beyond a smoking crater.

Bonus Fact: In Friesland there is a tradition called Carbidschieten. It involves filling a metal milk churn with carbide and water, quickly closing it and seeing how high the lid will blow off in the resulting weapons grade explosion.

2) Eat Lots of Oliebollen

You can’t have a Dutch New Year’s Eve celebration without Oliebollen. The translation might not sound very appealing since it literally means “Oily Balls” but make no mistake; you will not be able to stop eating them. They can be best described as the result of someone taking the middle part of a doughnut, dropping it in the deep fat fryer and covering the whole thing in a lot of powdered sugar. The vast amounts of powdered sugar will make it look like you have a very serious cocaine habit if you are not careful when eating them (your clothes will get covered in the stuff). Oliebollen can also be filled with other things such as; apple, pineapple, raisins and beer (to name but a few).

3) Listen to The Top 2000 Songs of All Time

Each year the Dutch radio station ‘Radio 2’ starts their annual top 2000 songs of all time. The list is voted for by the Dutch public. The countdown kicks off on Christmas Day and ends with the winning song playing just before the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. It is almost always Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. As a Queen fan I don’t mind this fact at all. On the few occasions when a different song has won I’ve been deeply shocked. When this happens my family is probably more relieved that they don’t have to listen to me singing along to it. The second place is almost always held by Hotel California by The Eagles (which I also sing along to badly).

4) Take a New Years Swim in The Cold Sea

As if to cool off from all the Dutch New Year’s celebration madness the Dutch like to start New Years Day by running into the freezing cold waters of the North Sea. They do this dressed in nothing but their bikinis, swimming shorts and a woolly (unox) hat. The tradition has been going for almost 60 years. Most of the crazy participants gathering at the Dutch sea side town of Scheveningen. It’s probably a very good hang over cure if you don’t die of hypothermia.

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10 responses to “Dutch New Year’s Traditions and Celebrations”

  1. Winnifred van Heyst says:

    In Australia we did play tennis with some of mums oliballon on a hot evening all in good spirits

  2. CaptainKirt says:

    I’ll be sat in my mother in laws having driven 120 miles to get there. I’ve never really liked new year.

  3. Chelsie says:

    i got to experience Carbidschieten for the first time living in Friesland this year. no explanation of what it was from my boyfriend, i honestly thought someone was bombing our town.
    and i thought the English went firework crazy…

    • Stuart says:

      I’m jealous. I’ve not got to experience one yet…. Although the random explosions I heard form a distance over New Years were probably a few.

  4. […] doesn’t stick to its fearsome origins anymore, and is mostly sold on the streets, accompanied by fireworks! There are tons of recipes for Oliebollen online including The Dutch Baker’s Daughter, […]

  5. G says:

    Fun fact about #1: In Dec 2017 the Dutch spent Eur 84 million in fireworks! if we consider that the NL has 17 mio of population, it’s an average of Eur5 per capita… So you can imagine the colorful sky between 6pm and 2am on NY eve.

  6. amsterfamily says:

    This was our first new year in Amsterdam…. “war zone” definitely was the phrase that sprang to mind!!! But we loved it!

    • Stuart says:

      It’s mind blowing isn’t it. I’m still amazed by it every year. Welcome to Amsterdam. It’s nice to have a fellow London blogger around. I’ve just been reading your blog. IT’s great.

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