How to celebrate Easter the Dutch way
You know that Easter is round the corner when you see your favourite supermarket stocking up with shelves of chocolate eggs ‘chocolade paaseitjes’. You might also come to realise that Easter in the Netherlands isn’t just a religious celebration, but also a holiday to spend time with friends and family. The Dutch love to celebrate Easter, and here, you will find a list of interesting traditions that are unique in the Netherlands.
Good Friday is not a public holiday
The Dutch Easter kicks off with Good Friday ‘Goede Vrijdag’. In the Netherlands, this is just a normal working day, except for some offices and schools. Easter Sunday ‘Eerste Paasdag’ and Easter Monday ‘Tweede Paasdag’ are public holidays where schools and most businesses are closed.
Decorating with twigs
Weeks before Easter, you will find willow branches ‘paastakken’ – literally translated as Easter branches – on sale at the florists. These are used to decorate Dutch homes, and children are usually roped in to help paint the eggs and chicks to hang on the branches.
The Easter brunch ‘Paasontbijt’ or ‘Paasbrunch’ is an important Dutch tradition – much like Christmas – where families come together for traditional treats. A lot of schools will also organise an Easter brunch for the kids a few days before Easter. During the brunch you can expect to find the following Easter treats:
- Hot rolls
- A lot of eggs
- ‘Matzes’ – unleavened plain crackers
- 'Paasstol’ – bread with a marzipan filling, raisins and powdered sugar
- Bread in the shape of bunny's
- Every pastry they can think off with a yellow frosting
Easter egg hunt
The most loved Easter activity is none other than the Easter egg hunt. Instead of the Easter bunny, the Dutch have an Easter hare ‘Paashaas’ who hides the eggs for the kids to find. Whoever finds the most eggs wins!
Easter musical – The Passion
The Passion is a Dutch Easter musical that returns every year with a different cast of Dutch actors and presenters. The musical reenacts the story of Easter and Jesus, with Dutch pop songs intertwined into the story. The Passion takes place in a different city every year, three days before Easter, and is normally presented live in the city square with a complete musical ensemble. This year, it will be in Roermond, but you can watch it in the comfort of your home on the Dutch broadcasting channel, KRO-NCRV on 1 April.
Another Easter tradition that is unique to the Dutch is St Matthew Passion. This composition by Johann Sebastian Bach is performed in churches throughout the country around the time of Easter, with many locals making this an annual affair.
How do you celebrate Easter? Perhaps you could incorporate some of these traditions into your celebration.