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The complete guide to Dutch holidays

Holidays, who doesn't love them? Well, quite a few people, but they're probably not reading this. So, welcome, holiday enthusiasts! If you want to know what we celebrate, when you might have time off, and where the real party is, you've come to the right place. We'll take you on a journey through the wonderful and sometimes confusing world of Dutch holidays, from national celebrations to folk festivals.

Let's start with some bad news: the Netherlands has the fewest official holidays in Western Europe. We share this dubious honor with Great Britain. And here's more bad news before we get into the festive spirit: employers aren't obliged to give you time off on official holidays. Sometimes you'll get extra pay if you have to work on an official holiday, but that depends on your collective labor agreement or employment contract.

Types of Dutch holidays

Dutch holidays fall into three categories. Firstly, our national holidays, King's Day and Liberation Day. These are holidays that are truly about the Netherlands. Then we have official holidays – our bank holidays or public holidays. These all stem from Christianity except for New Year's Day. Finally, our cultural holidays are days that many Dutch people celebrate, but unfortunately, you won't get a day off for them.

Of course, there's much more to do in Eindhoven throughout the year. In a city with such diverse cultures and nationalities, there are plenty of celebrations. We can't possibly mention them all, so we'd like to direct you to our events calendar and our article on major events in the city!

Koningsdag Nadia ten Wolde

Opening hours of stores, banks, and schools on holidays


On most public holidays, banks are closed. The European Central Bank decides whether there will be any banking transactions. So, for example, you won't have banking transactions on Good Friday or Easter Monday, but you will on King's Day and Liberation Day. Check with your bank if you have an important transaction to make.


Supermarkets are typically open on holidays, although they may close earlier. So, no worries if you forgot the Viennetta for your Christmas dinner. Other stores often close their doors on holidays. The exceptions are the second days of Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas. On the second day of these holidays, Dutch people love to go shopping, especially at the Woonboulevard. 


Schools are closed on New Year's Day, Easter Monday, King's Day, Liberation Day, Ascension Day, Whit Monday, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day. If you celebrate a religious holiday that isn't an official day off, you can request special leave from your child's school.

Now, let's move on to the real deal: all the holidays! Don't feel like scrolling? Use the quick menu below.

New Years EHVE door Kleurstof

New Year's Day

What is it? Official holiday
When? January 1st
What do we celebrate? The new year

New Year's Day is so universal, there's not much we need to explain about it. In the Netherlands, we particularly enjoy washing away the New Year's hangover by jumping or running into icy cold water. The New Year's dive in Scheveningen is especially popular, attracting tens of thousands yearly. You can also take a refreshing dip in a lake near Eindhoven, although you'll likely have to bring your own erwtensoep with rookworst (split pea soup with smoked sausage).


What is it? Cultural holiday
When? Somewhere between February 1st and March 9th
What do we celebrate? The eve of the fasting period

Carnival is perhaps the most beloved cultural holiday among people in the South and East of the Netherlands. It's also the festival that often leaves newcomers and foreign visitors scratching their heads and wondering, "Where on earth have I ended up?!" We totally understand that feeling. But don't worry, we're here to shed some light on the festivities.

Formally, Carnival spans three days (Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday), but in reality, the festivities kick off on Friday with a colorful explosion of costumes and revelry. Many folks take off work on the Monday and Tuesday following the Carnival weekend, so don't be surprised if your workplace feels like a ghost town. 

The word "Carnival" originates from the Latin "carne levare," meaning "farewell to meat." After Carnival comes the fasting period, observed from Ash Wednesday (the day after Carnival) until Easter Sunday. During this time, many Catholics refrain from consuming meat, sweets, tobacco, and alcohol.

But why all the outlandish costumes? Carnival has its roots in a reversal ritual, where societal norms are flipped, and people can temporarily assume different identities. That’s why 'ordinary individuals' are crowned as Prince or Princess Carnival each year. It's also a time for indulgence, excess, and playful mockery, allowing everyone to let loose before the solemn fasting period begins. Dressing up in eccentric costumes perfectly captures the festive spirit.

Nowadays, fasting is less common among Dutch people, but taking a break from alcohol and heavy foods for a few weeks after Carnival isn't a bad idea.

Interested in learning more? Check out our beginner's guide to Carnival in Eindhoven!

Carnaval - foto door Riku Mannisto

Good Friday

What is it? Official holiday
When? The Friday before Easter
What's it about? The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ

For Christians, Good Friday is a day of mourning and gratitude. It marks the day when Jesus Christ died on the cross. While it may not sound very "good," believers see Jesus' death as a sacrifice that offers eternal life to those who believe in him. Therefore, it holds significant importance for Christians. On this day, fasting is common, and church services tend to be solemn and subdued.

Aside from those employed by the government or banks, few people have the day off on Good Friday. This is likely due to the relatively small number of believers in the Netherlands and the somber nature of the day.

Easter Sunday and Monday

What is it? Official holidays
When? The first Sunday and Monday after the first full moon of spring
What do we celebrate? The resurrection of Jesus from the dead

For Christians and brunch enthusiasts alike, Easter Sunday is the most important holiday of the year. Jesus died on Good Friday, and he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. The fasting period concludes on Easter Sunday, making it the perfect occasion for a hearty Easter brunch. Given its timing, after the first full moon of spring, Easter is also a celebration of the arrival of spring, whether one is religious or not.

Interested in learning more about how Easter is celebrated differently in the Netherlands compared to other countries? Check out our comprehensive guide, 'A Typical Dutch Easter.'

King's Day

What is it? National holiday
When? April 27th (or April 26th if April 27th falls on a Sunday)
What do we celebrate? The birthday of King Willem-Alexander

On April 27th, King Willem-Alexander celebrates his birthday with the people by visiting a city and participating in activities like "koekhappen" and sack races. The city where the king visits goes all out to welcome him. The king and his family often parade through the streets, with schools and local associations providing performances and other entertainment.

Eindhoven is the ultimate place to celebrate King's Day. The entire city turns orange, and there's a party around every corner. Enjoy browsing the stalls or blankets at the orange markets, or dive into the partying crowds wearing your finest orange shirt. Want to read more about King's Day and how to celebrate it to the fullest? We cover everything in our King's Day 101.

We'll wrap up with a fun fact: the orange "tompouce" pastry was invented in honor of Wim-Lex's birth in 1967. Since then, it has become a beloved snack, first during Queen's Day (when Queen Beatrix was still our monarch) and then King's Day.


Remembrance Day 

What is it? Commemoration day
When? May 4th, specifically at 8:00 PM
What do we commemorate? The fallen during and after World War II

Not a holiday per se, but an important day in the Netherlands: National Remembrance Day. On May 4th, the day before Liberation Day, we remember all the victims of World War II and the colonial war in Indonesia, and all victims of conflicts in which Dutch soldiers were involved since. 

Stores close at 7:00 PM on May 4th. At 8:00 PM, the entire Netherlands observes two minutes of silence. Even pizza delivery riders take a break from their scooters. After two minutes, we sing the Dutch national anthem, the Wilhelmus.

The official Remembrance Day ceremony takes place at Dam Square in Amsterdam. The king and his family, government representatives, and various veterans lay wreaths at the National Monument on Dam Square. This ceremony is broadcasted on all public television channels.

Liberation Day

What is it? National holiday every five years
When? May 5th
What do we celebrate? The liberation of the Netherlands after World War II

On May 5th, 1945, the entire Netherlands was finally liberated from German occupation. We celebrate this every year with various liberation festivals. However, Eindhoven doesn't participate in this. Eindhoven was already liberated on September 18th, 1944, and since then, that day has been our Liberation Day, featuring various festivals throughout the city.

Liberation Day is a national holiday once every five years. The next occasions will be in 2025 and 2030. In other years, you're not entitled to paid leave or extra pay unless stated otherwise in your employment contract or collective labor agreement.

Ascension Day

What is it? Official holiday
When? 39 days after Easter Sunday
What do we celebrate? The ascension of Jesus

According to the Bible, Jesus ascended to God in heaven on Ascension Day. We always celebrate Ascension Day on a Thursday, the 40th day of the Easter period, which begins on Easter Sunday. Ascension Day is not widely celebrated in the Netherlands, but employers often schedule a collective day off on the Friday after. This requires you to use a vacation day, but it grants you an extra-long weekend. Nice!

The Netherlands doesn't have many Ascension Day traditions, although some people still go "dew walking" at dawn, which involves taking a long walk through nature. In the past, before meteorologists gained the recognition they deserve, dew was seen as a divine phenomenon. People used to walk barefoot through the dew to connect with God.

Catharinakerk door Studio Heinrich
Catharinakerk door Studio Heinrich

Pentecost Sunday and Monday

What is it? Official holiday
When? The seventh Sunday after Easter
What do we celebrate? The descent of the Holy Spirit

Pentecost is the Christian feast of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is seen as God's presence within humanity. The name Pentecost (Pinksteren in Dutch) comes from the Greek word "pentekoste," meaning "fiftieth," as Pentecost is the fiftieth and final day of the Easter season.

Don't pin us down on the biblical details, but in essence, Christians celebrate that God's spirit descended from heaven onto the apostles who were left adrift after Jesus' death, enabling them to carry God with them. After the Holy Spirit descended, the apostles could speak in various tongues and spread the word of God across the world.

In the Netherlands, Pentecost is often celebrated with fairs and festivals like Pinkpop. You'll also find Pentecostal bonfires in various places across the country – because what's more enjoyable than lighting a gigantic pile of wood on fire and watching it with a beer in hand?

Pentecost Monday is known as Woonboulevard Day (woonboulevards are shopping areas with all sorts of interior design shops – from kitchen stores to sofa stores), much like Second Easter Day, so you know where to avoid if you want to steer clear of crowds.


September 18th

What is it? Eindhoven's commemorative day
When? September 18th
What do we celebrate? The liberation of Eindhoven during World War II

On September 18th, 1944, Eindhoven was liberated by the Allies during Operation Market Garden. It wasn't until a few months later, on May 5th, 1945, that the entire Netherlands was liberated. In Eindhoven, we celebrate the liberation of the city, not the whole country. Various activities and commemorations take place throughout the city on September 18th, such as the "Lichtjesroute" (Route of Lights). Since it's a local commemorative and festive day, you usually don't get the day off on this day. But luckily, there's always an evening program you can join!

St. Martin's Day and Eleven Eleven

What are they? Cultural holidays
When? November 11th
What do we celebrate? The holy St. Martin and the start of the Carnival season

St. Martin of Tours was a Catholic saint known for his generosity and charity. He was buried on November 11th, 397. Children go door-to-door with lanterns on St. Martin's Day and sing songs about St. Martin in exchange for candy. It used to be something mainly done by the poor, but nowadays, it's truly a children's celebration. For some believers, St. Martin's Day marks the beginning of a fasting period until Christmas.

Also on November 11th, at 11:11 AM, the Carnival season officially starts with "Eleven Eleven." In many cities (but not in Eindhoven!), a Prince or Princess Carnival is appointed on this day. Why do we start thinking about Carnival in November? Good question! Eleven is the fool's number, which is very fitting for a festival centered around mockery. You'll find this number a lot in Carnival symbolism. The Prince or Princess has a Council of Eleven, and "Alaaf" is probably a corruption of the word "elf,” which is Dutch for eleven. And if carnival-goers have one thing in common, it's their love for a good party. They can't let the 11th of the 11th month pass by unnoticed.

Sinterklaashuis Eindhoven


What is it? Cultural holiday
When? December 5th
What do we celebrate? The birthday of Sinterklaas

On the evening of December 5th, Sinterklaas celebrates his birthday and distributes gifts to well-behaved children. This is called St. Nicholas' Eve. Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands from Spain in November aboard his steamboat, "Pakjesboot 12," along with his helpers, the Pieten. That's Sinterklaas in a nutshell, but we understand you might have many more questions about this holiday. Don’t worry!

Sinterklaas, or St. Nicholas, is based on the Bishop Nicholas of Myra. This saint was known for his generosity and love for children. He's said to have revived several children from the dead. He died on December 6th, 342. No one remembers exactly why St. Nicholas' Eve falls on December 5th. Perhaps for the same reason that Santa Claus comes on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day.

We also don't exactly know why Sinterklaas comes from Spain on his steamboat. Sinterklaas was first pictured on a boat in an old picture book for kids, and someone must have thought “We have tons of water, let's get Sinterklaas a real boat!”

The Sinterklaas we know today is a kind, benevolent figure who lets kids sit on his lap and gives them candy and gifts. That was very different in the past. Sinterklaas started out as a frightening figure meant to scare naughty children. Eventually, parents likely realized that a reward system works better than punishment and reversed it. Sinterklaas brought gifts and sweets for good children. And he took naughty children to Spain in his sack, or gifted them a birch rod, so their parents could smack them on the bottom with it. The birch rod and the sack have been out of commission for many years. Times change.

Similarly, the tradition that raises the most questions among foreigners is undergoing change. Yep, we’re talking about the Pieten: Sinterklaas’ helpers who used to paint their faces completely black with face paint. The story goes that St. Nicholas' helpers are covered in soot because they crawl through chimneys to deliver presents. It was a good excuse to make familiar adults unrecognizable, but let’s be honest: climbing through a chimney only leaves a few smudges and as a progressive nation, you have to recognize some traditions are hurtful. So nowadays, many places have switched to ‘roetveegpieten’ who only have a few smears of soot on their faces. Rainbow Pieten are also popular. These versions of Sinterklaas’ helpers wear brightly colored face paint that matches their flamboyant outfits (and makes it harder for kids to recognize Uncle Harry).

Christmas Day and Boxing Day

What are they? Official holidays
When? December 25th and 26th
What do we celebrate? The birth of baby Jesus

At Christmas in the Netherlands – as in many places around the world – we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Many places have a Christmas Eve service where everyone is welcome. You might stumble across a nativity scene or two, but since The Netherlands isn’t that religious, the birthday boy isn’t a prominent feature in our Christmas celebrations. Staples of a Dutch Christmas are a Christmas tree, a shuffleboard, a gourmet set, and a Viennetta. Curious about all Dutch Christmas traditions? Read our article "A Very Dutch Christmas."