Embracing Dutch New Year's Traditions: A Cultural Celebration – Uniek Living

Embracing Dutch New Year's Traditions: A Cultural Celebration

Dutch Life & Culture


As we approach the end of the year, it’s fun to explore and incorporate traditions from different cultures, as they can add depth and richness to our own celebrations. In this article, we'll take a look at the unique and vibrant traditions that mark the Dutch New Year that come from our home country of the Netherlands. Let’s dive in.

Oliebollen and Appelflappen

Oliebollen and Appelflappen are traditional Dutch treats that hold a special place in the New Year's Eve celebrations in the Netherlands. These deep-fried pastries have a rich history and are eagerly anticipated as part of the festive traditions.


The history of Oliebollen dates back several centuries. The name translates to "oil balls," reflecting the method of preparation by deep-frying dough in hot oil. Oliebollen are believed to have originated during the Germanic Yule celebrations, where small, round cakes symbolized the sun and the promise of longer days ahead. Over time, the recipe evolved, and Oliebollen became associated with various festive occasions, including New Year's Eve.

Today, Oliebollen are typically made with a dough containing flour, eggs, yeast, milk, sugar, and sometimes raisins. The dough is deep-fried until golden brown, resulting in a crispy exterior and a soft, doughy interior. Once cooked, Oliebollen are dusted with powdered sugar, adding a sweet finish. These delightful treats are enjoyed as a symbol of good luck and a sweet start to the new year.


Appelflappen, or apple turnovers, are another beloved Dutch New Year's Eve tradition. These pastries have a simpler origin, likely inspired by similar apple-filled pastries found in various European cuisines. The Dutch version features apple slices enveloped in a sweet dough, deep-fried until golden and crispy.

The preparation of Appelflappen involves slicing apples and mixing them with sugar and cinnamon. The apple filling is then enclosed in a dough, often made with flour, milk, and eggs. After a quick plunge into hot oil, the turnovers come with a satisfying combination of crunchy and tender textures. Like Oliebollen, Appelflappen are generously dusted with powdered sugar before being served.

Both Oliebollen and Appelflappen have become synonymous with Dutch New Year's Eve celebrations, offering a delicious, warm (it’s cold in the Netherlands this time of year!) and comforting treat as people gather to welcome the coming year. Families and friends often enjoy these pastries together either bought from local vendors or made at home. 

Fireworks Extravaganza

On New Year's Eve in the Netherlands, you should be prepared for exploding fireworks everywhere. The Dutch have a reputation for going all out, turning the night into what can feel like a battlefield (but of colors and fireworks explosions). The tradition is deeply ingrained in the culture, with people and entire communities taking to the streets to light off their fireworks. 

As the clock strikes midnight, millions (we estimate) of fireworks illuminate the skyline, creating an unmissable sight that stretches across cities and towns. It can be a sensory overload, with the smell of gunpowder lingering in the air as the sky is painted with intricate patterns and vibrant bursts.

The Dutch seem to embrace the chaos and unpredictability of the festivities, making it a wild but undeniably fun tradition. The collective enthusiasm for fireworks is evident as families, friends, and neighbors gather to partake in the celebration, turning the streets into a lively and communal space. The joy and excitement that accompany this annual event underscore its significance in Dutch culture, marking the end of the year with a bang – quite literally.

Before you do the same in your neighborhood, check the legality of fireworks in your area. Also, be very careful as it’s one of the highest injury nights in the country each year.

New Year's Day Polar Bear Plunge

New Year's Day in the Netherlands is not only a time for reflection and resolutions, but it also includes a distinctive tradition: the New Year's Day Polar Plunge. 

Despite the chilly winter temperatures (both in the air and water), brave Dutchies come together from around the country to welcome the new year by taking a refreshing dip into the icy waters of the North Sea or other bodies of water across the country. This tradition, often organized by local communities or clubs, involves participants donning festive costumes or swimwear before collectively submerging themselves in the frigid waters. 

The event is a symbol of renewal and resilience, and is a somewhat daring way to start the year. The atmosphere is both festive and exhilarating, with participants cheering each other on as they plunge into the cold embrace of the sea. After the plunge, participants often warm up with hot beverages together, creating a sense of community and shared accomplishment. 

The New Year's Day Polar Plunge in the Netherlands is not only a bold and chilly tradition but also a testament to the spirit of embracing challenges and welcoming new beginnings with enthusiasm.

Raising a Toast with Dutch Cheer

New Year's Eve celebrations in the Netherlands often feature a diverse selection of beers, reflecting the country's rich brewing traditions and a growing appreciation for craft and specialty brews. Dutch beer culture embraces a wide range of styles, from traditional lagers to innovative craft beers. While individual preferences may vary, several types of beer are commonly enjoyed during New Year's Eve festivities.

Dutch Pilsner: Pilsner-style lagers are immensely popular in the Netherlands. Renowned Dutch beer brands like Heineken and Grolsch offer crisp, refreshing pilsners that are frequently enjoyed during celebrations. These beers are characterized by a light, golden color and a balanced flavor profile, making them easy-drinking choices for toasting the arrival of the new year.

Belgian-style Ales: Given the proximity to Belgium, Dutch beer enthusiasts often indulge in Belgian-style ales during New Year's Eve. These can range from the fruity and spicy flavors of Belgian Dubbels and Tripels to the complex and rich taste of Belgian Strong Ales. Brands like La Trappe, produced by a Dutch Trappist brewery, offer high-quality Belgian-inspired ales.

Craft Beers: The craft beer movement has gained significant traction in the Netherlands, leading to a surge in the availability and popularity of artisanal brews. Craft breweries across the country produce a diverse array of beers, including IPAs, stouts, and sour ales perfect to try something new at the start of the year. 

Bock Beers: In the colder months, Dutch beer enthusiasts often appreciate bock beers. These malty, full-bodied brews with caramel and toasty notes are well-suited to the winter season. Bock beers can be found in various styles, such as traditional bocks, doppelbocks, and even innovative variations with added spices.

Champagne Beers: To add a touch of luxury to the festivities, some may opt for "champagne beers" or festive brews specifically crafted for celebrations. These beers often have a higher carbonation level and can feature special ingredients, creating a beer that mimics the vibe of champagne.


Embracing Dutch New Year's traditions offers a unique and enriching way to celebrate the arrival of a new year. From indulging in sweet treats to braving icy waters, the Dutch customs reflect a spirit of togetherness, adventure, and optimism. As you plan your New Year's festivities, consider incorporating some of these heartwarming traditions into your own celebration, creating memories that resonate with the warmth and joy of Dutch culture. Cheers to a happy and culturally rich New Year!

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