Dutch New Year's Day Traditions

| Leiden International Centre

Celebrating the start of a new year can be exciting, and it can also give you the chance to start afresh with new resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. If this is your first time experiencing New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day, in the Netherlands then you might be curious as to how the Dutch celebrate these events - and perhaps you're wondering if there are any ways that you, too, can take part in some Dutch traditions to herald in the beginning of 2024!

Here are just some of the traditions that you can try out this year in the Netherlands, and whether you are bold enough to brave that icy dip in the sea or whether you are more up to cosying up on the sofa with some delicious snacks, there's sure to be a New Year's tradition perfect for you!

1. New Year's Dive

Perhaps the most infamous of Dutch traditions, this one involves beginning the year with a chilly dip into the sea. Your New Year's dive could consist of an entire swim in the sea (or lake), or, if it's just a tad too cold for you, you can also choose to run into the water and then run out swiftly to grab a towel and warm up. Either option, or anything in between, makes for a bracing start to 2024 - and it can certainly be refreshing! The most well-known New Year's dive occurs in Scheveningen, and, if you sign up for it, then you can join hundreds of others who are also seeking a fresh way to begin 2024.

2. Oliebollen

If swimming in January is not entirely your cup of tea, then why not try out some delicious deep fried oliebollen? These Dutch snacks, literally deep fried balls of dough, are the epitome of New Year's in the Netherlands. Numerous oliebollen stands appear throughout towns and cities in the lead up to New Year's, and you can also buy bags of them at any of the Dutch supermarkets during this period. Walking around a Dutch city on a cold evening with some warm, fresh oliebollen from one of the stands is the ideal way to enjoy these snacks (with some added powdered sugar providing some delightful sweetness - and messiness - to the whole experience). However, cosying up on the sofa with some tea, a good book or TV show, and some oliebollen also sounds like the perfect way to begin your New Year's celebrations.

3. Oudejaarslot

In the Netherlands, there is a lottery ticket that exists solely for New Year's, referred to as oudejaarslot. This ticket can be bought in the lead up to New Year's, and the results of the lottery will be announced at midnight just as the new year begins. Although not everyone may be able to win the large grand prize (which this year stands at €30 million), there are also many smaller prizes available as well.

Coins spread out over a table.

4. Fireworks, fireworks, and more fireworks

One of the more controversial traditions that you will see (and hear) on New Year's are fireworks. You can only legally sell (and thus buy) fireworks on 3 days in the entire year: the 29th, 30th, and 31st December. If one of these days is a Sunday, then you can't buy it on that day. Unless you are a professional (such as those creating public firework displays for events), you are also not allowed to set fireworks off in the Netherlands except in the short period of time between 6 pm on December 31st and 2 am on January 1st. Always be careful when setting off fireworks if you plan on doing it yourself, and keep an eye out in the days leading up to, and after, New Year's, as some as-yet unset private fireworks may continue to lie on streets and roads. The municipalility of Leiden has established firework-free ares. You can read more in this article on where they are, and what fireworks are allowed. 

5. Stay up late listening to the TOP2000 songs of all time

Perhaps this particular one is more familiar, as many countries around the world also do the same. However, TV channels and radio programmes in the Netherlands will be playing the top songs of all time in the days leading to the new year. Every year, the Dutch audience votes on NPO Radio 2 website for their favourite songs. The top 2000 are broadcast in a marathon which starts on Christmas Day and ends on New Year's Eve. It's the perfect opportunity to enjoy your favourite songs, and perhaps discover a few that you haven't yet heard!