Celebrating the Holidays in the Netherlands


Updated on Dec 17 • 2 minute read

As December rolls in and the holiday season begins, it is time to start the winter festivities! Here is how I will be celebrating some of my favourite holidays.

Sinterklaas in the Netherlands

Being half Dutch, Sinterklaas has always been a holiday we celebrate at home. Whether we were in Ethiopia or Azerbaijan, my sister and I always left our shoes under the chimney and sang Dutch Sinterklaas songs. The next morning, we would wake up to find our shoes filled with chocolate and gifts. Even when I was studying at my university in America, I always expected a special care package to arrive full of delicious treats. Wherever we lived: my parents made sure that the tradition continued.

However, I never truly experienced the authentic Sinterklaas celebration until I moved back to student city The Hague this fall. Since arriving here, I have discovered so many new aspects to the holiday. Whereas at home we always celebrated Sinterklaas only on December 5th, I realized that the festivities actually begin much earlier! The celebration truly commences on November 18, when Sinterklaas arrives on his steamship from Spain. This year, I was so determined to watch him arrive, that I dragged my sister to the Willemsplein port in Rotterdam.

Another great revelation I discovered, is that 'pepernoten' actually come in all different flavours! When we lived abroad, Sinterklaas would always leave the original pepernoten in our shoes along with chocolate letters and other traditional treats. However, after visiting Albert Heijn a few weeks ago, I found out that there are many other flavours, such as chocolate, caramel and stroopwafel. When visiting Utrecht with my friends, I also discovered the Van Delft Pepernotenfabriek where the pepernoten came in unique flavors like pina colada and liquorice! Since making this discovery, chocolate covered pepernoten have become my new obsession.

To celebrate Sinterklaas, my friends and I have organized a class party. Just like for Christmas, we will be playing Secret Santa (Sinterklaas in this case). Using the site lootjestrekken. To play the game, everyone will purchase a small gift and write a poem for their assigned person. Then on the day of the party, we will convene and place the gifts and poems in a pile in the center. One by one, we will exchange the gifts and read the poems out loud. Along with the gift exchanges, we will also have Sinterklaas treats for everyone to share.


Just like for Sinterklaas, my family has always celebrated Thanksgiving wherever we go. Although we have yet to master the art of stuffing and to cook a turkey, we have always found a way to enjoy a meal together. Whether it be a restaurant or at home, the most important part of the holiday is to be surrounded by people you love and be thankful for what you have been given.

I celebrated thanksgiving in two different ways this year. With my family, we went to the Thanksgiving buffet at the Leiden Holiday Inn in the student city Leiden. Because Thanksgiving meals are my favourite, the buffet was the perfect excuse for me to stuff myself up with turkey and potato casseroles. Besides that, I also did Friendsgiving with some of my classmates from university. The meal was a potluck where everyone brought their traditional dishes. By cooking and hosting together, the Thanksgiving meal was easy and more affordable. If you are planning a similar festivity, here are the 10 Commandments of Friendsgiving. These ten tips are sure to make your Friendsgiving the best yet!

Happy Holidays!

Wherever you go, there is always a way to celebrate your favourite holiday. If you are surrounded by friends and family, every celebration will be the perfect one. These were some of the ways I celebrated Sinterklaas and Thanksgiving. What are your holiday plans?

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