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BLOG: A Year of Dutch Traditions Through Vuslat's Eyes

Reading time: 6 min

Join Vuslat, an international student in The Netherlands, on a journey through the Dutch seasons. From the Leidens Ontzet celebration that welcomed her to Leiden, to the heartwarming Sinterklaas festivities and the vibrant King's Day, each season brought new traditions and fun memories. Step into Vuslat's world and explore the rich tapestry of Dutch culture through her eyes.


  • Leidens Ontzet

About a month after I arrived in Leiden, I celebrated Leidens Ontzet (Relief of Leiden). This was the perfect event to introduce me to Leiden; the city that would soon become my home. On October 3rd, my friends and I marched into the city centre and we were met with a grand scene: countless rides, a Ferris wheel, a carnival, food stands, game stands, and everything you can imagine and more! Immediately, we loaded our hands with patat met, classic Dutch fries with mayonnaise. After all, we needed energy to ride all those rides! It was raining (classic Dutch weather alongside classic Dutch fries!), so we put on our raincoats and jumped on the chair swing ride. The faster the swings went, the harder the raindrops fell on our faces. It was such a fun experience! We decided to end our first Leidens Ontzet by going on the Ferris wheel, where we could see all of Leiden. It was such a special day, knowing that this was the city we were all going to spend the next couple of years of our lives in.


  • Sinterklaas

My first Sinterklaas (Dutch Christmas) in the Netherlands was such a wholesome experience. I spent the occasion with my (Dutch) boyfriend and his family, and together, we celebrated Sinterklaas with a glass of bischopswijn (Dutch mulled wine) and more than a couple of kruidnoten (spice nuts). We sat in a circle, as the Dutch tend to do on most occasions, and we exchanged presents and poems. The Dutch call this night, pakjesavond (present night), which happens on December 5th. A few weeks prior to Sinterklaas, we anonymously determined who would buy a present and write a poem for who else in the group, similar to Secret Santa. My boyfriend’s older sister was the family member who was assigned to me. I bought her a special edition of the book, Little Women, and wrote her a nice and funny poem. I received a poem each from my boyfriend’s parents, and I still read them occasionally. Every single time I do, I’m put in a good mood! My boyfriend’s grandparents bought us chocolate letters (chocoladeletter) based on the first letter of our names, another Sinterklaas tradition. I can’t wait to celebrate Sinterklaas again! As Sint would say: Liefs, Sint (Love, Sint).

  • Dutch New Year

Vijf, vier, drie, twee, één: Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!!! Friends, fireworks and champagne, the right way (or at least, the Dutch way) to enter the New Year. I spent my first New Year’s with my Dutch friends and boyfriend. In the Netherlands, a distinction is made between the day before the new year and the day after. Dutch New Year, called Oud en Nieuw (Old and New), consists of Oudejaarsdag (Old Year’s Day) and Nieuwjaarsdag (New Year’s Day). What we traditionally call New Year’s Eve is termed Oudejaarsavond (Old Year’s Evening) in Dutch. To celebrate this occasion, my friends and I ate oliebollen met rozijnen (Dutch doughnuts with raisins) and dipped them in poedersuiker (powdered sugar). The oliebollen we ate were not just any ordinary oliebollen, but they were from a bakery in Nieuwerkerk aan den IJssel that has won awards for its oliebollen (or so my friend tells me!). I must agree that they are the best oliebollen I have ever tasted. Once the clock started to near 12pm, fireworks began to light all around town. By law, untrained individuals are not allowed to light fireworks, however, the one exception is on New Year’s Eve. So, with a glass of champagne in our hands and fireworks lighting all around us, we entered the new year!


  • King’s Day

The 27th of April marks an important day for the Dutch. Of course, I am talking about none other than the king’s birthday: King’s Day. In Dutch, this is translated as Koningsdag. When I first started learning Dutch back in 2021, I accidentally called KoningsdagKonijnsdag, instead, because I confused koning (king) with konijn (rabbit)! That was not my best moment. Now that my Dutch is much better, I know that Koningsdag is the day when Dutchies dress in orange and drink more and party harder than usual. There is one very yummy pastry that is associated with the occasion called tompouce which is a cake-like dessert. On King’s Day, the traditionally pink colored icing on the tompouce is replaced with a bright orange color to fit the occasion. I spent King’s Day in Schiedam with my Dutch friends and we strolled around the city and had a look at some vrijmarkten (flea markets) that were set up all around town. Later, we went to a karaoke bar which was filled with a lot of middle-aged people who were singing along to old Dutch songs like “Waarom” by André Hazes (a classic!). If you’ve ever wondered what the king does while everyone else parties on King’s Day, you’d be pleased to know that the King visits a different city each year with his family. If you’re lucky enough, maybe the King and his family will visit the city you live in next King’s Day!


  • Amsterdam Pride

On a sunny morning in August, my friends and I took the train from Leiden Centraal, and in around 40 minutes, we arrived at the central station in Amsterdam. The city was as colorful as I’d ever seen it and there was a reason: Amsterdam Pride. This lively festival dates back to the year 1996 when it was first formed to celebrate freedom and diversity. 26 years later, my friends and I were amongst 550 thousand people partaking in the event. Collectively, we watched the Canal Parade, one of the biggest attractions of the festival. Around 80 beautifully decorated boats with exuberantly dressed participants paraded around the canals of Amsterdam. On the boats, DJs played music and the crowd danced and sang along. They sure knew how to entertain a crowd! Overall, it was a very fun-filled day with a lot of fun-loving people. Will I see you at Amsterdam Pride next summer?