Like most of the world, the Netherlands celebrates New Year’s Day on January 1, based on the Gregorian calendar. However, the celebration in the Netherlands is much different than in other areas of the world.
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Natives of the Netherlands consider New Year’s to be one of the most cherished festivals each year. As soon as Christmas Day is over, unofficial New Year’s celebrations begin. New Year’s cards are sent from businesses and individuals wishing friends and colleagues the best of luck for the upcoming year. Many of the traditions celebrated during New Year’s in the Netherlands are drawn from the culture of Dutch settlers.
New Year’s Eve
The celebrations become even more extravagant on New Year’s Eve with many parties at pubs, clubs and hotels, although some people prefer private parties. Many areas of the country plan social bonfires for New Year’s Eve as well. Like many other areas of the world, people watch the clock closely until it strikes midnight. People kiss and hug, wishing good luck for the upcoming year.
Fireworks are set off at midnight with many believing they are warding off the evil spirits from the Old Year. The fireworks displays are significant with the sky lighting up as soon as the sky goes dark and not stopping until the early hours of morning.
New Year’s Day
Most people relax on New Year’s Day in the Netherlands, spending time with family and friends. Some villages organise New Year’s Dives in which people are encouraged to swim through cold water. Many participate because it is said to bring good luck and healthiness. The largest event is in Scheveningen with more than 10,000 swimmers. Although such swims take place around the world host such swims, the Netherlands has the largest number.
Visiting friends is a tradition on New Year’s Day and people must have a glass of liquor as well as something to eat at every home they visit. It is not uncommon for people to exchange New Year’s gifts and they are often ring-shaped as it symbolises the circle of life.
Eating of sweet dough is considered to fight off evil spirits. Ollebollen are translated into “oily balls” and resemble homemade donuts. Legend has it that the Germanic goddess, Perchta, would fly through the sky with a tribe of evil spirits, attempting to slice open the bellies of anyone she came across. Her sword would simply slide off the bellies of those who ate ollebollen.