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Dutch New Year (Oud en Nieuw )

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Dutch New Year (Oud en Nieuw) consists of Oudejaarsavond (New Year’s Eve) on December 31 and Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year’s Day) on January 1. The latter is a public holiday. Public holidays are few and far between in the Netherlands, so they are usually a pretty big deal. Don’t feel too sorry for us: we get a minimum of 20 paid holiday days a year (excl. public holidays) and we even get paid a holiday bonus of approximately 8% of our gross annual salary, but I digress…

New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is usually spent enjoying a party with friends and family or going into town to see open-air concerts and the fireworks around the city. Fans of loud banging noises will have a field day, as overzealous children of all ages set off crackers. The red cracker papers turn the streets bright red. I’m told that the tradition of setting off fireworks and crackers has something to do with old pagan customs of driving away demons, so that the New Year could begin with a clean slate. At the stroke of midnight, firework displays brightly color the sky and the cacophony of people wishing each other a Gelukkig Nieuwjaar (Happy New Year) can be heard all around.

New Year’s Day

It has become traditional (for some crazy die hards) to take a Nieuwjaarsduik at noon on New Year’s Day. This involves taking a dip in the freezing cold North Sea at Scheveningen beach in the Hague. The swimmers are rewarded with a steaming cup of Dutch winter soup, usually Erwtensoep, a thick split pea soup with smoked sausage.

Traditional Oud en Nieuw treats include:

  • oliebollen (Dutch donuts, often studded with fruits)
  • appelbeignets (apple beignets)
  • duivekater (a sweet festive bread)
  • erwtensoep (split pea soup)
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