Christmas is only just over, and the next Dutch holiday is right around the corner. From indulging in greasy snacks to stripping down for a chilly swim on January 1, the Netherlands has its own fun and unique ways of bringing in the New Year (or Oud en Nieuw, as it’s known in Dutch).
6 Dutch New Year’s traditions to tryIf you’re looking to incorporate some Dutch New Year’s traditions into your celebrations this year, here are six ways to ring in the New Year in the Netherlands like a local.
Feast on OliebollenYou may have already caught the intoxicating smell of sweet fried goodness that seems to be everywhere in the Netherlands at this time of year, but if there’s one day when you should definitely eat an Oliebol, it’s New Year’s Eve.
For the uninitiated: Oliebollen (literally, “oil balls”), are doughnut-sized lumps of deep-fried dough that are served with a light dusting of powdered sugar. They are usually plain, but sometimes come with other additions, including raisins, currants or even apples. Traditionally, eating an Oliebol was meant to ward off evil spirits, but nowadays they are just considered a hearty treat during the cold winter, and are sold throughout the festive period in the Netherlands.
To many Dutchies, no New Year’s Eve spread is considered complete without at least a dozen Oliebollen, so expect long queues at the stands on December 31.
Listen to the Top 2.000Every year since 1999, the Dutch radio station Radio 2 has been asking the public to vote for the top songs of all time. The results of the nationwide poll are then broadcast in a marathon session of 2.000 songs that starts on Christmas Day and ends on New Year’s Eve.
Since the winning track is usually played just before the stroke of midnight on December 31, many Dutch people use the Top 2.000 show to soundtrack their New Year’s Eve parties. Spoiler alert: the winning song is almost always Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, closely followed by Hotel California by The Eagles, but we may be in for a surprise in 2023!
Video: NPO Radio 2 / YouTube
Buy a lottery ticketIf you’re feeling lucky this year, you might want to take your chances in the oudejaarslot, a special lottery draw that takes place every year in the Netherlands on New Year’s Eve.
Each year, millions of people buy a ticket in the hope that they’ll bring in the New Year as a millionaire – and with good reason, as the 2023 jackpot stands at a whopping 30 million euros! However, with more than 7 million tickets sold each year, we hate to break it to you that your chances of winning are slim. Thankfully, a range of smaller prizes are also up for grabs.
The results are announced at midnight, so many Dutchies ring in midnight with a glass of champagne, a sparkler, and a lottery ticket in their hands!
Editorial credit: Jarretera / Shutterstock.com
Burn some Christmas treesRather than disposing of their Christmas trees in the regular way, many people in the Netherlands have a more spectacular way of getting rid of them: setting fire to huge bonfires of kerstbomen.
Up and down the country, you’re likely to encounter smouldering piles of trees tens of metres tall. In the name of safety, don’t be tempted to start your own impromptu neighbourhood bonfire, but you might want to attend one of the massive bonfires organised by municipalities each year. The most famous ones are at the Museumplein in Amsterdam and at Scheveningen near The Hague.
Enjoy some fireworksRather than heading to an organised fireworks display, most Dutchies prefer to take matters into their own hands on New Year’s Eve and light explosives in the street. The fact that you can only legally buy fireworks on three days each year in the Netherlands (December 29, 30 and 31) – and only light them between the hours of 6pm on December 31 and 2am on January 1 – means that everyone gets a little overexcited.
Love it or hate it, but New Year in the Netherlands is brought in with a cacophony of amateur pyrotechnics, with countless rockets, Roman candles and firecrackers exploding in unison all over the country as the clock strikes midnight.
If you’re not feeling confident with your own fireworks, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry. Instead, head to a high point (like a balcony or rooftop terrace) and enjoy the visual treat of thousands of fireworks exploding all around you as the New Year gets underway. Alternatively, you could attend one of the professional shows put on by municipalities all over the Netherlands.
If you are planning to set off your own fireworks, check out our tips on buying them and lighting them safely. Note also that many municipalities in the Netherlands impose fireworks bans on New Year, so make sure that you check the regulations in your area and enjoy yourself responsibly!
Take a dip on New Year’s DayAnd, finally, New Year’s celebrations are rounded off in the Netherlands with an ice-cold refresher. Each year at 12pm on New Year’s Day, around 30.000 brave people strip off and wash away their hangovers with a chilly dip in the North Sea.
The New Year’s Dive (nieuwjaarsdijk) has been going strong for over 50 years, and many participants take part to raise money for charity. Somewhere along the way, the dive got adopted by Unox, a brand famous for its soups, smoked sausages and other canned goods, and nowadays the swimmers are kitted out with branded Unox hats and rewarded with a steaming hot bowl of pea soup to warm up afterwards.
The biggest New Year’s Dives take place at Zandvoort aan Zee and Scheveningen, but you’ll find smaller dives taking place at beach locations across the Netherlands. It’s hands down the world’s best hangover cure.
Image credit: Vitalinka / Shutterstock.com
Ring in the Dutch New Year like a local Ready to ring in the New Year? With these tips in tow, you’ll be doing it like a real Dutchie. Gelukkig nieuwjaar to you and yours, and see you in 2024!