Traditions and rituals in The Netherlands
There are three major traditions in The Netherlands worth mentioning. The first is the celebration of St. Maarten. This is a popular children’s feast day in many parts of the Netherlands. Typically, in the early winter evening of November 11, small groups of children can be heard going up and down the street singing songs and reciting poems, armed with lit lanterns. As a reward, they are given sweet treats, in a custom similar to American Halloween, but not quite as commercial.
The second is Sinterklaas. Every year about three weeks before December 5th, Sinterklaas and his band of helpers arrive in the Netherlands from Spain by steamboat. The arrival (intocht) is shown live on television. For the next three weeks Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Piet helpers tour the Netherlands visiting children at school. Then on December 5th he will visit you at home with his big book and tell you whether you have been good or bad and you will get showered with presents.
The third is King’s Day celebration. King’s Day may well be the best party in Holland. On 27 April, we celebrate King Willem Alexander’s birthday with music, street parties, flea markets, and fun fairs. The king himself travels through the country with his family. On the night before King’s Day, King’s Night is celebrated with music shows in The Hague and other cities and the nation’s biggest flea (‘free’) market in Utrecht.
Important and famous people
Important and famous people of The Netherlands varies from painters and soccer players to linguists and philosophers, like Vincent van Gogh, Erasmus, Johan Cruyff, Jan Vermeer, Rembrandt, Piet Mondrian and Benedict de Spinoza. Important people of the day are King Willem van Nassau and Queen Maxima.
Music, art and literature
The history of Dutch art is dominated by the Golden Age painting style, mostly of about 1620-1680, when a very distinct style and new types of painting were developed, though still keeping close links with Baroque painting style. After the end of the Golden Age, production of paintings remained high, but ceased to influence the rest of Europe as strongly.
A popular genre of Dutch music is known as “Levenslied”, meaning “Song of life”. These songs have catchy, simple rhythms and melodies, and are always built up on couplets and refrains. Themes are often sentimental and include love, loneliness and death. Traditional Dutch musical instruments are the accordion and the barrel organ.
One of the most important historical writers of the 20th century was Johan Huizinga, who is known abroad and translated in different languages and included in several great books lists. During WW II, influential writers included Anne Frank (whose diary was published posthumously) who died in a German concentration camp, as did Jan Campert, who was a famous crime fiction writer. Writers who had lived through the atrocities of the Second World War reflected in their works on the changed perception of reality.
Traditional cuisine and eating habits
Traditionally, Dutch cuisine is simple and straightforward, with many vegetables and little meat; breakfast and lunch are typically bread with toppings while dinner is meat and potatoes, supplemented with seasonal vegetables. The Dutch diet was relatively high in carbohydrates and fat, reflecting the dietary need of the laborers whose culture molded the country, and contains many dairy products. People generally eat three meals a day, one of which is a hot meal.
There are a few traditional sports in The Netherlands, some of which are based on location, like Fierljeppen in Friesland. This is a sport where the person jumps a small river while trying to climb as high as possible on a long wooden pole. Another traditional sport is Korfbal, which is similar to Basketball, but not the same. Nowadays the famous sports of The Netherlands are cycling, hockey, ice skating and soccer.