Lifestyle Living in North Holland

How the Dutch celebrate birthdays

Gefeliciteerd! So it’s your birthday and you want to celebrate it like the Dutch do? Well buckle up kids, we’re in for a wild ride!

The Dutch are relationship focused. This means you go around to every party attendee and congratulate them. That’s right, gefeliciteerd means congratulations. It’s a term used for any sort of congratulations but is mostly used for birthdays. It’s to say “whew, they made it another year!” and it’s impolite to skip a guest. This is also the time where three kisses are exchanged (right cheek, left cheek, right cheek). Once everyone has acknowledged each other, it’s to settle down into a comfy place.

All about that tart
Forget birthday cakes, most Dutch families serve apple or cherry tart in lieu of a birthday cake. While it’s an odd tradition for those of us who aren’t Dutch by birth, it’s quite a common occurrence. In fact, a birthday cake seems very American here. The Dutch rarely indulge in the extreme sugar cravings we have in America. Most of the time I’m told my baking is just way too sweet for a Dutch tongue.

Sitting in a circle 
I’m told this is something that is found mostly in western Netherlands. The entire family sits in a circle and friendly banter is exchanged. Light topics only! Some like to talk about recent purchases or future holiday spots. It’s also common to plan for someone else’s birthday during this time! If the whole family is together, why not take the opportunity to bookmark a date that’s easy to make?

Snacks are also very common treats but the sorts of snacks here are very different from the usual chips and dip I’m used to. Bread crackers or cookie biscuits are loaded up with Dutch salads like ham salad or chicken curry salad (it’s such a strange flavor!). Sometimes nuts are served as well. I’ve even seen baguettes with brie cheese served so it depends on who is the host. Soda and other sweet drinks, like juice, are served. Wine is also commonly had but I’ve never seen an open can of beer. If something less alcoholic is desired, there’s always tea and coffee.


The point of celebrating a birthday isn’t to have the focus on the person of honor. It’s to bring the whole family together to share good times and catch up. Sometimes it’s difficult to have a family gathering and a birthday is usually the easiest way to get together.

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  • Reply
    Ronna's Eternal Journey
    June 13, 2018 at 8:19 pm

    Thank you for your blogpost! Now I’m actually curious about life in the USA haha!

    • Reply
      June 14, 2018 at 2:49 pm

      Thanks for reading! I tend to forget some of my readers are Dutch! I’ll have to make a post about American traditions too!

  • Reply
    Comparing Dutch and American Birthdays - A Daily Lee
    September 19, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    […] off from work. During this past week we also celebrated his birthday! Not so long ago I wrote a post about how the Dutch celebrate birthdays. I figured now would be another good time to compare them. […]

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