Christmas time in The Netherlands is unique. They have not one but two Christmas days. There’s the first day of Christmas. And then there’s the second day of Christmas. Both are public holidays and most stores are closed. So what exactly is second Christmas and how did we celebrate ours?
An extension of Christmas
While the 26th has significance for Christians, many people spend the second day like they do the first. It’s a time for family and friends. Many families gather at a household and have a huge meal. Gourmetten is typical but other meals can also be enjoyed. Outgoing people can drop by Christmas markets that are still open. Ice skating was quite popular in the past but this winter has been too warm for that.
Many stores aren’t open on the 26th. This includes government run buildings and small businesses. We did see a few grocery stores opened but they had short hours. Family life is important for the Dutch and so shops close early to allow for their workers to be home.
In the Christian calendar, the 26th is in honor of Saint Stephen. He was the first martyr and is renowned throughout various parts of Europe. This day carried over and non religious people took it as a continuation of Christmas. The rest is history!
Our second Christmas
Sander and I spent most of the day at home relaxing. He goes back to work tomorrow and I go back to studying too. It was the perfect day to be lazy after a busy year. We went to his sister’s house in the evening and had a meal with the family (and opening presents). It was the classic Dutch meal. We sat at a large table and cooked our food as we talked. There were so many different kinds of meats to choose from! For dessert we had a beautiful white chocolate covered ice cream (vanilla and caramel, yum). After that we watched a bit of TV and enjoyed a warm cup of tea/coffee.
This is typical of Dutch households. The wonderful thing about the Dutch is that they can party, but keep it to themselves. There are hardly ever noise complaints!