Some of the public holidays in the Netherlands coincide with major festivals and celebrations. These are usually non-working days that commemorate some important cultural or historical event. Here is a guide to public holidays in the Netherlands.
New Year’s Day (Nieuwjaarsdag)
This day can be rather quiet with most businesses, post offices and banks closed. Very few people go to work and even public transport services are limited. On the night of December 31st, celebrations are held and some towns also have public gatherings with bonfires.Easter Sunday (Pasen)
This day is mostly spent with family and close friends. Most businesses remain closed.
Some of the shops in tourist areas may stay open. Public transport services may be somewhat limited. Observant Christians attend the Easter service. Food is an important part of this holiday and traditional dishes are served such as paasstol (Easter bread), a variety of egg dishes, and butter presented in the shape of a lamb.
King’s Day (Koningendag)
Queen’s Day, which used to be celebrated in the Netherlands, was changed to King’s Day in 2014 after the queen abdicated the throne to her eldest son, Willem Alexander. It will be celebrated on April 27th in 2015. On this day, public transport services like buses and trams may take shortened routes to avoid the crowds at the famous vrijmarkt or free market. The market covers almost the entire country and in every city, town and village, people come onto the streets to sell their wares. This can include anything from odds and ends, to clothing and toys, and even fish tanks and electronics. Everything is on sale and while the shopping continues, musicians and bands play on street corners.
National Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking)
Observed on May 4th, National Remembrance Day honors the memory of those who died in war and in peacekeeping operations. People assemble across the country to mark this day and observe a two-minute silence to pay respect to both soldiers and civilians who lost their lives. Another important rite on this day is to place wreaths at significant places such as the National War Memorial in Amsterdam. National Remembrance Day is always observed on the day before Liberation Day.
Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag)
Liberation Day is an official public holiday which only happens once every five years. It is celebrated to mark the end of World War II and the gaining of freedom. Celebrations of different kinds are held every year on this day, and throughout the day banks, post offices and businesses remain closed. The Liberation Festival, a music festival featuring Dutch and international musicians, is also celebrated at this time.
Ascension Day is a Christian observance, which marks the ascension of Jesus into heaven following the crucifixion and resurrection. It is always observed on a Thursday and falls on the 40th day of Easter. This day is legally considered to be like a Sunday and therefore most people do not have to go to work. Christians attend church services, while for the rest it is a holiday to either stay at home or engage in outdoor spring activities like cycling or walking.
Pentecost is called Whitsun or Whit Sunday in the Netherlands. It is a Christian holiday that commemorates the Holy Spirit descending upon the followers of Jesus. Since it always falls on a Sunday in Spring, many people enjoy the outdoor music festivals and other Spring activities. Some Christians attend church on this day. Whitsun occurs around the same time as many other holidays and therefore many people use this time to take a short vacation.
St Nicholas' Eve (Sinterklaas)
Not an official holiday, St Nicholas’ Eve is celebrated on December 5th. It is time of family gatherings and gift-giving. There is a tradition for children to leave clogs out, for St Nicholas to fill with gifts. St Nicholas is a common sight at schools, shopping centers and hospitals during this time of year.
Celebrated on December 25th, Christmas is an important holiday in the Netherlands. Festivities are similar to those found in countries all around the world. Offices and banks remain closed. Many restaurants offer special Christmas meals on this day.