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Leisure Time and Holidays

Dutch workers have a relatively high number of vacation days (approximately 25). They like to spend their holidays camping with a tent or caravan. France has been a popular holiday destination for years.

Many people bike to school or work or just for leisure. Other popular sports are soccer, fitness, swimming, field hockey, running, and tennis. In the winter, ice-skating is very popular, weather permitting.

Holland is divided into three regions when it comes to school holidays: north, middle and south. It keeps everybody from going on holiday at the same time. The holiday season is thus spread out over a longer period of time, which is therefore better for the economy. And because of the spread, there is less hassle in traffic. You can find the dates on the website of the government: www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/schoolvakanties.

The schools will have the following breaks:

  • Voorjaarsvakantie      Spring Break              February         1 week
  • Zomervakantie            Summer Holiday       July/August   6 weeks
  • Najaarsvakantie         Autumn Break            October           1 week
  • Kerstvakantie              Christmas Holiday     December       2 weeks

In the Netherlands, many Christian holidays are celebrated because of the historically religious background. The following national holidays are celebrated on the same day in the whole country:

  • Goede Vrijdag: Good Friday
  • Pasen: Easter (two official holidays, Sunday and Monday): there are Easter egg hunts, egg-painting, and shops are full of chocolate eggs and decorations.
  • Hemelvaartsdag: Ascension Day (one official holiday)
  • Pinksteren: Whitsunday (two official holidays, Sunday and Monday)
  • Koningsdag: April 27th is a national holiday in honor of the king’s birthday with many festivities including flea markets and parties. Orange clothing is rampant. Traditionally, the king visits a couple of cities of the country. Amsterdam is the unofficial center of King’s Day.
  • Dodenherdenking: May 4th is a day of remembrance for war victims. Flags fly at half-mast from sunrise till sunset, and there is a remembrance service at De Dam in Amsterdam. At 8pm, all activities stop while the nation observes two-minutes of silence.
  • Bevrijdingsdag: May 5th is Liberation Day. The nation celebrates liberation from Germany in WWII. Dutch schools are closed, and while it is not a vacation day for employees, many open-air concerts are organized.
  • Prinsjesdag: On the third Tuesday in September, the king rides from his palace to Parliament in a golden coach, and at the Ridderzaal in the Hague, reads the State of the Union, which states the government policy for the coming year.
  • Sint Maarten: November 11th is Saint Maarten’s Day, when children go trick or treating with lanterns at doors and sing special songs for treats.
  • Sinterklaas: December 5th is St. Nicholas’s Day. In the middle of November, Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten helpers sail from Spain to the Netherlands. From that day until the 5th of December, children can put their shoes at the chimney or door and hope to find some treats or small presents the next morning. On the 5th of December itself, they celebrate Sinterklaas’ birthday, and family and friends exchange gifts. A poem accompanies each gift. Sometimes the presents will be camouflaged and may look like something else, called a “surprise”.
  • Kerstmis: December 25th and 26th (two official holidays, first and second Christmas day). The first day is a family day, and the second day is for seeing friends. On the second day, many shops are open, and numerous restaurants offer special menus. Only after Sinterklaas will people put up their Christmas tree. On the 6th of January, they will take the tree down.
  • Oudejaarsavond: December 31st is New Year’s Eve. Many people celebrate this evening at home with family and close friends. As a tradition, you can buy oliebollen (a kind of doughnut). Most restaurants are closed, and employees are off from work earlier that day. Fireworks may only be sold on the last 3 days of the year and can only be lit on the 31st of December from 10am until the 1st of January at 2:00 hrs. Keep your pets inside!