Throughout my Bachelor studies in the Netherlands, I’ve celebrated the new year twice in this country. The first was with a Dutch family in Apeldoorn whilst the other was with my university friends in Utrecht. Both occasions share similar activities that I consider to be Super Dutch. Although I was in two different places in my life during these celebrations, I had the highest of profound moments just staring at the night sky being lit up by sparks (a fancier way to say looking at fireworks).
Every country celebrates the end of a year and a start of a new one with their own traditions, whilst the Indonesians get offered special “New Year” prices at hotels, discos, and major restaurants for a night of fine dining, entertainment, and dancing, the Dutch tend to get intoxicated and spark an insane amount of fireworks that illuminates the entire country. Of course, amongst other things:
1. Bring on the Oliebollen!
Commonly in December, stands and vans pop up with highly enterprising Dutchies selling Oliebollen: deep-fried balls of dough covered with powdered sugar. This tasty treat can be related to Donat Salju in Indonesia, with the added diabetic bonus of it being deep-fried in oil (thus directly translated from Olliebollen to “Oily Balls”).
During my new years in Apeldoorn, I was taken to a neighbouring house to see how Olliebollen was made. It was a meaningful experience as I truly felt I was in a different cultural atmosphere. In specifics, I was in a Dutch family household, watching a Dutch couple cooking a traditional Dutch delicacy. During my new years in Utrecht, these powdered dough balls were pleasantly placed on a table amongst other snacks including: salmon with garlic butter wraps, ham and vegetarian quiches, guacamole, couscous salad, and other simple snacks only students regularly think of making.
2. Champagne All Around!
Similar to a majority of new year celebrations around the world, alcohol was present. However, the night where I consumed an alarming amount of champagne for the first time just so happens to be the new year celebration I had with my university friends in Utrecht. And since my new years celebration in Apeldoorn also involved champagne, there must be a correlation. Whether that’s one glass at midnight, or a bottle in your pocket whilst strolling the streets of the city, champagne will be present.
3. Crazy Fireworks!
New Year celebrations and fireworks go hand-in-hand, it’s an expected occurrence wherever you go during this time of year. However, the Dutchies don’t treat it lightly. Throughout the country, overexcited celebrators light a daunting amount of fireworks that create complete and utter-exploding chaos! This tradition leaves firework wrappers and large damaged boxes throughout the streets for the municipality to clean up the next day. It’s an amazing thing to experience, knowing that an entire country (or maybe even more countries in that specific time zone) is appreciating the sparks in unison. On both celebrated occasions, I spent an hour of the night just staring at the sky, taking pictures, and appreciating the saddening beauty that pollutes our airspace (it’s a little sad, but contradictingly mesmerizing).
4. Lottery Tickets/Walking Around the City
On each new year occasion, I celebrated two different traditions. The first I experienced was with the Dutch family in Apeldoorn. I was bought several lottery tickets and was told it was an annual new year tradition in their household to buy tickets and try their luck. After counting down the seconds to the new year and celebrating it with kisses, we checked our lottery tickets to see if we’ve won a butt-load of cash. With smiles on our faces, we put down our losing tickets and continued celebrating the new year anyway. It was an incredibly simple but “wishful-thinking” kind of tradition, a surprisingly nice one in fact.
During my new year celebration in Utrecht, my university friends and I carried a bottle of champagne in our coat pockets (each) and walked alongside the canals of Utrecht. I figured this to be a tradition as we saw plenty of drunken students/young adults strolling around the city spreading cheer and incoherent remarks, doing the exact same thing we were doing. The atmosphere of the walk was entirely fulfilling: the canals and trees were lit up with sparkling Christmas lights, people on the streets had a certain glow of happiness on them, and strangers were greeting each other with smiles and wishing anyone with a friendly face a gelukkig niewujaar.
5. Being Surrounded by Lovely People
The most important tradition of both new year celebrations (for me) was the fact that I was surrounded by lovely people. Whether that was with my university friends or a particularly benevolent Dutch family, I felt entirely welcomed in this foreign country. If you’re an international student, you can imagine this as a pretty sweet achievement. Holidays and celebrations are an odd thing for us as we are so use to spending them with our family and friends from back home, so feeling welcomed was definitely a big deal to me and I’m glad I felt that way here in the Netherlands.
Everyone celebrates the new year in their own unique and different way and deciding which way is the best would be a highly subjective task. In my opinion, if you’re around lovely people and are surrounded by everyone’s genuine appreciation for each other, then I would say you’re up for a pretty sweet new year.
Have you ever had a new year celebration in the Netherlands? Did we experience the same Super Dutch traditions? Let me know in the comments below!