This year I literally saw in the New Year with a bang, as I celebrated New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands visiting a friend in Den Haag. She had warned me about a few odd Dutch traditions for New Year, but I was unprepared for the level of crazy my New Year celebrations in the Netherlands would bring!
Here are just a few (insane) ways the Dutch like to celebrate New Year and my exhausting experience celebrating New Year’s Eve in The Hague:
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New Year Firework Celebrations in the Netherlands
In the UK, our New Year celebrations consist of counting down from ten to one at midnight, looking at a few fireworks and then going out to party, or to bed. In the Netherlands, the fireworks are all day and all night, from dawn to dusk in the days before and after New Year’s Eve.
If this wasn’t confusing enough, fireworks are also let off in the streets! You have to be mindful of where you’re walking, as Dutch people light boxes of fireworks and leave them on the pavements or in the roads to go off with a bang!
If you think I’m exaggerating, let me assure you that you’re wrong. I laughed when my friend told me that cars are regularly set on fire accidentally on New Year’s Eve in Holland. Then, I saw people driving and cycling over and next to lit fireworks. I even saw a group of boys holding the boxes as the fireworks went off!
My eyesight isn’t the best and I was terrified of walking down the streets in the dark, unable to see whether fireworks are about to blow up in front of me.
New Year Bonfires on Scheveningen Beach, The Hague
If you’ve survived being chased from the city centre by fireworks, then it’s time to make your way to Den Haag’s Scheveningen Beach for the bonfires. After the countdown from ten to one at midnight (in Dutch, if you can), the bonfires are lit and often stay burning for days.
The size of the fires are approximately the size of four-storey buildings and – though terrible for the environment, I’m sure – they completely light up the entire beach. The coastline and the sky has a magical orange glow.
Celebrating New Year’s Day in Den Haag
Without much sleep (the fireworks go on all night), we got up on New Year’s Day ready to be truly woken up with another mad Dutch tradition, the Nieuwjaarsduik! The New Year’s Dives into the North Sea take place all over the Netherlands, but the biggest turnout is at Scheveningen Beach in The Hague.
Read more about my dip into the North Sea on my post on Nieuwjaarsduik Scheveningen, the New Year’s Day Dive!
What are some other Dutch traditions for New Year?
Aside from setting off fireworks in the streets, building bonfires the size of skyscrapers and throwing themselves into the North Sea on New Year’s Day, the Dutch also like to set fire to their Christmas trees and throw those out into the streets too.
Other Dutch traditions for New Years include eating ‘oily balls’, listening to the top 2,000 songs of all time on the radio and glugging gluvine!
This cute animated post on Dutch New Year Traditions and Celebrations by Invading Holland has all you need to know. Equally informative is this piece by DutchNews on How to celebrate New Year in the Netherlands – with recipes and this similar article by The Culture Trip.
Should I celebrate a Dutch New Year’s Eve in Amsterdam or The Hague?
I may be slightly biased, but after my terrifying interesting experience in Den Haag for New Year’s Eve, I’m inclined to say The Hague (also, remember that time I went to Amsterdam and didn’t see anything?).
Less than an hour’s train journey from Amsterdam and Schipol Airport, The Hague is a cheaper and far less busy Dutch city to spend New Year in. Plus, in The Hague you get the added bonus of the New Year’s Dive!
How I booked my quick and cheap New Year’s Eve getaway to the Netherlands:
Cheap flights to the Netherlands can be found on Skyscanner (I flew from Birmingham with FlyBe), cheap accommodation can be found on Booking.com (though staying with a friend for free is substantially cheaper!) and travel insurance can be found with World Nomads.
Wishing you a Happy New Year!