In the Netherlands, Sinterklaasavond, St. Nicholasí evening, on 5th December remains more important than Christmas, although in recent years, the Dutch have started celebrating Christmas on December 25th with Santa as well. Therefore there is always a minor controversy over what would be the best time to start celebrating Christmas. Shopkeepers of course prefer to start right after Sinterklaasavond as it is more lucrative for them and they like to take advantage of that. However
there are others who argue that because of the foreign influence of Christmas, the traditional Sinterklaasavond is losing its importance. Since it is believed that Santa Claus is an avatar of sinterklaas, it would be safe to say that Sinterklaas is in competition with himself here.
St. Nicholas is also known as Sinterklaas in Netherlands. He is said to sail from Spain on his feast day: December 5 th . Dutch Children have a tradition where they fill their shoes with hay and sugar for his horse and when they wake up they find them filled with candy and sweets. Many a times Sinterklaas will pay a personal visit to a child's house almost always resembling the child's father or uncle. He asks the kids if they have been naughty or nice and is usually very kind and loving.
Therefore, December 5th is recognized as the main gift giving festival in Netherlands and no gifts are exchanged on Christmas, where it remains a purely religious festival with people attending mass, and other religious activities.
Christmas Traditions in Netherlands
Christians and a large amount of people having a Christian background go to church on Christmas.
The protestant Church of Netherlands has its Christmas service on December 25 th while the Roman Catholics have a midnight mass on Christmas Eve. This service is normally kept somewhat simpler compared to normal services, with more attention to the children and the singing of famous old Christmas carols and hymns. Since the end of the 20th century, some protestant churches also have services on Christmas Eve.
A lot of old churches in Netherlands have now been closed because so many people abandoned churches and stopped attending the service. Yet, everyone wants to become religious on Christmas and visit churches. Yet the remaining churches are too small to handle the rush of Christmas.
In East Holland, in a place called Twente, a special advent ceremony is held wherein people blow on special horns to chase away evil spirits and announce the birth of Christ. These horns are made at home out of saplings which are a year old and three to four feet long. When blown over wells they sound similar to foghorns .
Christmas Food And Decorations In Netherlands
Marzipan is very popular in Netherlands, particularly during Christmas and is eaten in every shape and size. Spiced ginger biscuits and cakes molded in the shape of animals are also very popular. The Christmas tree in Netherlands is referred to as a Paradise tree.
You can buy artificial trees or real pine trees. Some people build Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles.