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New Year’s traditions in the Netherlands

Hapjes are small bites

I’ve asked fellow travel bloggers to share their New Year’s Eve traditions. Jessica Lipowski, host of Twitter travel chats #CultureTrav and #TRLT, shares how they celebrate New Year in the Netherlands.

Happy New Year! A brand new year is underway, and 2016 is off to a strong start. Typically around this time of year we are back in the States, celebrating Christmas and New Year’s with my family. However, since we visited this past summer, we decided to spend the holidays with my partner’s family in the Netherlands. The Dutch incorporate certain traditions on December 31st and January 1st, and my Dutch family has added a few customs of their own, which I’ve compiled below:

Firework displays

Once a year, people are allowed to buy fireworks. From little sparklers to big, spectacular displays, the night sky comes alive with magical colors and sonic bursts. While we do not partake in setting the fireworks off ourselves, we enjoy watching from the safety, comfort, and warmth of our home.

Eating oliebollen

Oliebollen are round, deep-fried donuts eaten either plain or stuffed with raisins. The delicious dessert is then dipped in powdered sugar, ready for consumption. The sweet treat is found almost everywhere during this time of year, including food trucks that dot the city streets, local bakeries, and grocery stores. Some people choose to fry their own at home.

Oliebollen a Dutch tradition

Oliebollen are a Dutch tradition at New Year.

Radio2’s Top 2000

Every year, starting on Christmas Day and playing non-stop until the clock chimes 12 on New Year’s Eve, the radio station Radio2 broadcasts the top 2,000 songs of all-time. People can vote for their favorites in advance. Many listen in, us included. “Imagine” by John Lennon was number one for 2015, “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen was number two, and “Hotel California” by the Eagles was third.

New Year’s Dive

On January 1st, it is a custom for people to plunge into the North Sea for the “Nieuwjaarsduik” or “New Year’s Dive.” Everyone runs in and out of the ice cold water. According to Visit Holland, Scheveningen is the most popular location, with approximately 10,000 people jumping in. There are some 60 other locations in the country where you can experience Nieuwjaarsduik, if not the North Sea then a canal or lake. I haven’t done this yet, but would like to one day. Hopefully, I won’t get cold feet.

Indulging in Hapjes

Hapjes is the Dutch word for appetizers or small bites. On New Year’s Eve, my partner’s family lines the table with delicious starters such as cheese, crackers, bread, garlic herb butter, and of course oliebollen. Additionally, my family customarily eats a variety of fish, including eel, salmon, mackerel, herring, and tiny Dutch shrimps. We graze on snacks the entire evening until the ball drops. Other families in the Netherlands may share this tradition, as well, but this ritual in particular is something we cherish.

Hapjes are small bites

Hapjes are small bites to eat throughout New Year’s Eve.

Making predictions

This is another family tradition, where we try to forecast what will happen in the upcoming year. We write down not only personal predictions, but also guesses about world events. The piece of paper is sealed and put away until the following year, when – on New Year’s Eve – we revisit our statements and reflect on the previous year’s happenings.

How, and where, did you ring in the New Year? I’d love to hear about your traditions in the comments below.

Jessica Lipowski is the author of Flavors of Life, a non-fiction book detailing the life stories of 62 entrepreneurs from 41 different countries. Regardless of origin or background, one thing unites these people: all own a restaurant in Amsterdam. Jessica, originally from Detroit, Michigan and a graduate of Michigan State University, moved to the Netherlands in February 2011. The book, in combination with Jessica’s past work experience, travels, and life as an expat, has enabled her to view food, travel, and culture through a different lens.

Follow Jessica on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Google +.

Kirsty Marrins

Reader, writer, occasional runner, travel lover.



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