A very Dutch Easter
Did you read our 'A very Dutch Christmas' special last year? If so, you can skip most of this article because Dutch Easter is just like Christmas, but with eggs. Extensive breakfasts, gourmetten, and a trip to the woonboulevard: we like our holidays just so. But worry not. There's plenty to learn about Dutch Easter traditions, so sit back and enjoy the ride!
What is Easter all about anyway?
Ask ten Dutch people what Christians celebrate at Easter, and you might get two accurate answers. We'll start with a bit of backstory, so you'll pass the test this year. According to the bible, Jesus died for our sins on Good Friday and rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. This is why Lent, the fasting period after Carnival, ends during Easter. Now you also know why many people take Easter brunch so seriously.
Because Sunday is a day of rest, and the resurrection of Jesus deserves a big party, the Christians added a second Easter day. So we have them to thank for our Monday off. Want to score extra points with your Easter knowledge? Then we have another piece of trivia for you: Easter doesn't fall on the same dates every year. We celebrate it somewhere between March 22 and April 25, on the Sunday after the first full moon of spring.
Going to the same concert every year
If you want to hear the story of Jesus in more detail, you can go to the St. Matthew Passion (Matthäus-Passion) in hundreds of churches and concert halls. In Eindhoven, Catharinakerk and Muziekgebouw are the places to be. Johann Sebastian Bach originally composed the St. Matthew Passion for a Lutheran evening service on Good Friday. It premiered on April 11, 1727, in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, and it's still running today.
This musical spectacle lasts for 2.5 hours. And the modern version has already been shortened considerably. In the days of Bach, people had to sit on a hard bench in a cold church for four hours. These days, you can opt for a comfortable theater seat… If you're quick enough, because this banger sells out in no time. In fact, you can already get your tickets for Easter 2024. This concert isn't just for believers. The St Matthew Passion is an annual ritual for many Dutch people. And even the social event of the year in some circles.
Maybe our love for choirs has something to do with the popularity of the Passion. Did you know that almost 11 percent of Dutch people sing in a choir? Mindblowing! Now you know why the Passion committees have no trouble finding talented singers for their shows. Do you love to sing, but does 'talented' not apply to you? Then you can go to a singalong-Matthäus. Kinda like Ameezing Eindhoven, but about Jesus.
No holiday without a feast
Easter is not a holiday of religious significance for everyone. Whether you practice Lent or not, Easter is all about good food. It starts in the morning. Sandwiches, croissants, bagels, eggs, jam, and lots of butter. People with too much time on their hands like to show off with homemade quiches, scones, savory tarts, and raisin-eyed chick buns. A must-have during Easter breakfasts is the paasstol. We also eat stol, a sweet bread with raisins and almond paste, at Christmas. For Easter, it is coated with almond shavings and/or orange peels. More fitting for spring than a wintery topping of powdered sugar.
Tip: Not in the mood to prepare a full Easter brunch yourself? Then head to one of these places with brilliant brunches!
The Easter table is traditionally an explosion of spring colors. Baby chick yellow, grass green, bluebell blue, and cotton candy pink. At the center of the table (or at least somewhere nearby) is the paastak: the Easter branch. This is a willow branch decorated with Easter eggs, flowers, butterflies, and other cute things. The cute spring theme applies to our food as well. From butter in the shape of a baby chick, to bunny-shaped vegan frikandellen for your gourmetstel (available at Albert Heijn).
Yes, you read that right. Like at Christmas, the evening will be all about gourmetten, not to be confused with fancy French food. Gourmetten is do-it-yourself teppanyaki. Everyone gets their own small pan to prepare whatever meat, fish, veggies, or egg dish they like.
Easter for kids
In the Netherlands, we don't have an Easter bunny but an Easter hare. Sounds much nicer in Dutch: Paashaas instead of Paaskonijn. Our Easter hare also hides Easter eggs. In or around the house, depending on the weather forecast. The more difficult the hiding place, the more fun for the Easter hare. But by increasing the difficulty, you also increase the risk of sitting on your sofa in the early days of May, wondering where that rotten smell is coming from. Unfortunately, an insanely hard-boiled egg can still go bad.
Brave people put the spoils of their egg hunt on the Easter table. They look cute with their festive coat of paint, but a rubbery egg with a blue or pink sheen is not very appetizing. Don't feel like decorating and hiding eggs yourself? Many local playgrounds organize an egg hunt. The eggs there are often made of chocolate, so your kids will be all in favor of this option.
On the Tuesday after Easter, many elementary school children bring a breakfast box with tasty Easter brunch leftovers to school, exchanging it with a classmate. Be careful, though, because in some schools, all truly delicious foods have been banned, and you will be thoroughly scorned if you let your kid bring anything with nuts, sugar, or white bread to school.
Some more interesting traditions
We are almost done with this Easter special, but we will close with three beautiful Easter traditions. The first is no surprise because even at Easter, we love to go to the woonboulevard, the place with all the furniture, bathroom, and kitchen stores. Let's face it, there's nothing better than shuffling through a massive crowd on your day off. You'll get so annoyed, you'll be happy to return to work the next day. It's perfect. Don't want to miss out on this tradition? Then Meubelplein Ekkersrijt is the place to be!
In the Netherlands, there are Easter bonfires in many places. You won't find many in Eindhoven, but in surrounding villages, they REALLY like to set large piles of wood on fire. Traditionally, these are built without a crane, which often leads to a trip to the ER. The village of Espelo in Overijssel holds the world record for the highest bonfire without a crane: 45.98 meters. Want to witness an Easter bonfire? Check the website of a nearby scouts club.
One Dutch Easter tradition almost came to an end last year: the Pope saying Bedankt voor die bloemen (Thanks for the flowers). The florist who has been ensuring that some 42,000 flowers go to St. Peter's Square every year since 1986 couldn’t find sponsors this year. The Dutch-speaking Friezenkerk in Rome was devastated by the news and decided to sponsor the Dutch sea of flowers. A huge relief, if you ask us!