Easter in the Netherlands is predominantly about family, fun, eggs, food, religion, and traditions. Despite being a small country there are plenty regional variations when it comes to Easter in the Netherlands.
I had a Catholic upbringing in the UK, so my family marked Easter Sunday by going to church. It was a time for reflection and celebration. Fast forward a few decades and church does not play a role for my Dutch family at Easter time, though my sons know what Easter signifies.
For many other Dutch people however, church still dominates the Easter period. Truth be told, many consider Easter a secular holiday and enjoy a day off work and school for Easter Monday, called tweede paasdag.
It is worth noting that the Pope gives the Dutch a special mention every year in his Easter speech. He thanks the Netherlands for the flowers saying “bedankt voor de bloemen” in his best Dutch accent. The Dutch have sent thousands of tulips to Rome annually for three decades to decorate St. Peter’s.
Easter in the Netherlands: The Importance of Traditions
There are several regional Easter traditions in the Netherlands, such as the Roman Catholic tradition of vlöggeln and paasstaakhalen in the provincie of Overijssel and more commonly, the tradition of lighting paasvuren in the east side of the country.
Vlöggeln is a unique Easter procession which happens in Ootmarsum in Overijssel.
Eight men (the Poaskearls), who have no wedding plans for the coming four years walk hand in hand singing Easter songs through the town. They walk alongside the locals to the market square. The children are lifted three times to cries of ‘hoera’ to symbolize the rising of Christ. Later in the evening the paasvuur is lit in the presence of the eight Poaskearls.
This event in Denekamp in Twente is also unique. Paastaakhalen is a procession to the ‘Singraven’ estate where the owner points out a tree. The tree is felled, its branches are removed, and the tree is dragged to the town where it is erected with a burning ton of tar on top.
An Easter fire can be months in the planning. It is a tradition that dates back hundred of years to pre-Christian times. The Dutch traditionally lit Easter bonfires to ensure fertility (the ash going back into the ground) and to chase the winter demons away. These days the fires are social events with whole villages often working together to prepare a bonfire.
Celebrators light the fires on Easter Sunday or Monday. The fires are commonly seen in the provinces of Drenthe, Groningen, Friesland, Gelderland, and Overijssel. Competitions for the highest or neatest fires are held.
The Matthäus Passion goes hand in hand with Easter in the Netherlands. You can typically attend a performance in a concert hall in one of many big cities.
Easter Breakfast Boxes in School
Many primary schools organize an Easter breakfast in school. Each child prepares breakfast at home and brings it into school for a classmate to eat.
The Easter Hare
I grew up thanking the Easter bunny for my chocolate treats. My Dutch children have the paashaas to thank. The Easter hare, a symbol of fertility, is thought to have migrated from Germany to the Netherlands.
On Easter morning it is common practice for children to go on an Easter egg hunt around the garden or house. They fill their homemade baskets with the chocolate treats the paashaas has left behind.
In parts of Limburg it’s not the paashaas who brings eggs, but the Catholic paasklokken (‘church bells with wings’) which travel from Rome.
Dutch Easter Decorations
An Easter table will almost certainly be decorated with spring time flowers (in abundance in the Netherlands) and a paastaak – a willow branch which may also be decorated with miniature symbols of Easter.
Dutch Easter Brunch
Eating together plays a large role in a Dutch Easter celebration, commonly a brunch on Easter Sunday or Monday.
The Dutch typical make an Easter brunch consisting of lots of eggs (hard or soft boiled eggs) that are often painted, dyed or decorated by children. Brunch also includes croissants, baked breads (like these paashaasjes) and pastries after the fasting of Lent. The Dutch also serve cold meats and special (Dutch) cheeses. They also traditionally serve paasstol which is a rich bread filled with raisins, nuts, and marzipan.
I grew up with British hot cross buns at Easter time (traditionally served on Good Friday). These have slowly made their way onto a Dutch Easter brunch table.
Last year I ventured to making an Easter themed cake.
What is most important about a Dutch Easter brunch is not so much the food, but the gezelligheid. A Dutch Easter is about family and friends being and eating together.
That’s what really makes it an Easter in the Netherlands.
Easter is approaching, and once again we are excited to take you on a tour of the world and how it celebrates Easter! Explore the diverse traditions of Easter with us, and don’t miss our series from last year or 2015. You also will enjoy this wonderful overview of global Easter traditions. Find these posts and more on our Easter Around the World Pinterest board:
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Amanda van Mulligen
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