Dutch Days – Silly Seasons – Fantastic Festivities! Pt 1.

Public holidays are few and far between in The Netherlands but when they do come around, they use them to their max!

Paasdag 1&2 – “Religious”

Konings Dag – insane market day

Hemelvaartsdag – “Religious”

PinksterDag 1&2 – “Religious”

KerstDag 1&2 – “Religious”

Jaarwisseling – fireworks beyond description

Sinterklaas – parade 

Northern and southern hemisphere timing are literally poles apart!

Firstly, the confusion is only now beginning to clear after almost three years in our new country, beginning with “voor jaar” and “na jaar”, literally translated as “before year” and “after year”.

To my southern hemisphere thinking, this would mean the time before and after New Year’s Day, 1st January however, this is not the case here in the north!

My confusion started when I joined the local tennis club, about 800m away from our apartment, in the middle of the Groenendaal wandlebos: Merlenhove has to be one of the most beautiful tennis clubs anywhere in the world as it is surrounded by beautiful old trees and boasts 13 gravel courts – tennis heaven!  I was welcomed by the friendliest of ladies who run the kitchen & bar.  She soon had me signed up,  photographed for my member card and ready to play in the last of the na jaars competitie.  From there I was asked what my ranking was to which I had no clue since club tennis competitions in rural South Africa are no longer in existence.  I took a flier and gave myself a high ranking figure meaning a weaker tennis strength.  In hindsight, that was foolish as it’s very difficult to get out of a high rank with weaker players and into a lower rank with stronger, more challenging players….

Following my ranking, I was asked to join a team in order to play in the competitions, another minefield to negotiate and figure out!  I was very kindly included in two different groups of ladies of different rankings.  Since I was not exactly sure what or when I was signing up for, I opted to commit myself only to being an “invaller” for both teams, giving me the leeway for flexibility.

It was also to cover up my confusion as to WHEN these competitions took place as they continuously referred to “voor jaar” en “na jaar” competitie but none of the dates fell either side of the start of a new year???  

Obviously, New Year in the north is virtually slap-bang in the middle of winter when outdoor tennis is not played, so the confusion continued until I was corrected by one of my colleagues, at the museum where I volunteer as an English tour guide, who informed me that the year is divided by the seasons and not by the calendar – light bulb moment!

Not only are the tennis competitions divided by the much anticipated, very long, sunny summer days: before summer and after summer, but so too every logical calendar event, including the academic year!  One advances to a new school grade or university year not at the beginning of the new calendar year, 1st January, but AFTER THE SUMMER, usually around the beginning or middle of August, thus begins a “new year” for students.

This “cock-eyed” way of working the beginning and the end of seasons and years also taints, to some extent, the global public holidays of Christmas and New Year – more on the public holidays and festivities in the next post…!

4 thoughts on “Dutch Days – Silly Seasons – Fantastic Festivities! Pt 1.

  1. I may not have had to deal with a language barrier with ‘old year and new year’, but one things for sure, wrapping my head around the new school year and the traditional new year has taken me long enough to figure out.


  2. Hoi Sally.
    Must say that I love your blog.
    Small correction for the last one… it’s “ na jaar” (najaar) “naar” means – amongst others – “unpleasant”😉. Greetings from the South 🌞


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