How to party on New Year’s Eve in the Netherlands

Hallo lieve mensen! It’s January! The start of a new year. The start of a new DECADE. I’ve seen everyone’s New Year’s Resolutions (thank you Instagram). I’ve posted my own homage to New Year (thank you Instagram), and I’ve partied with the Dutch and watched 2020 explode into my life.

I’d like to make an announcement first of all. I am a party pooper extraordinaire. The older I get, the less I find the climax of 12pm exciting, and instead find the ever passing hours more and more daunting. I need my 8 hours you see. I get very grumpy without them and I hate that feeling of my eyeballs sliding down my face whilst the rest of my forehead tries to catch up. So basically, I moaned as much as humanly possible at the thought of having to stay up past midnight for ONE night out of 365.

Why am I like this? I have absolutely no clue. I do enjoy a good party. I think it has more to do with worrying about talking Dutch to people than anything else.

Anyway, I’ll put my inner Grandma away for the rest of the day. I want to tell you how the Dutch celebrate New Year’s Eve. For a start, they call it Old Year’s Eve, or Oudjaarsavond. At first I found it a strange name. After all, we are celebrating the new incoming year, not the old one, right? After all, Christmas eve is the night before Christmas. Why wouldn’t the night before a brand new year be called New Year’s Eve.

Nowadays I get it a bit more. I guess we are celebrating in the old year, and celebrating everything that we went through in the old year, so really, they’re not wrong these Dutchies. But neither is everyone else celebrating the night before the new year, so let’s call it a draw.

Anyway, here are the few things you must do in order to celebrate the coming of a new year if you live in the Netherlands.

Set fireworks off all day every day in the three days leading up to the 31st

This is a tradition taken part by mostly children and juveniles, so take that as you wish.

There has been a constant popping and banging in the village for a few days now, and my cat is shitting her pants on the regular. Every pop and bang is followed by a wave of thick grey smoke, so when we set foot outside you get the whole asthmatic experience, but that’s ok, fireworks are pretty and I love them. Except it’s the middle of the morning, and weirdly bright outside in the daylight, and YOU CANNOT SEE THE PRETTY FIREWORKS COLOURS LIKE THAT.

This is my third year experiencing such an occurrence, and let me tell you, whilst I do enjoy the adrenaline rush, and the numerous wake up calls throughout the day, I do spend the entire time cursing a lot more frequently under my breath.

Watch grown men fill milk churns with gaseous fluid and watch them pop

Up here in Friesland, not only do you have the popping and banging of the juvenile firework professionals to contend with, but also the inevitable booms of the exploding milk churns. It’s called carbidschieten.

I am assuming it’s mostly dairy farmers who partake in this sort of celebration, because they use those massive milk canisters that I doubt you find anywhere outside of a farm with lots of cows on it. These milk churns are turned into literal cannons, and are set alight in massive displays for the surrounding village folk.

I haven’t witnessed it with my own eyes yet, but I promise to get the lowdown on it next NYE.

Buy a mountain of Oliebollen and appelflappen

Ah, my favourite Dutch NYE tradition.

Oliebollen are the Dutch Old Year’s Eve must have, and they’re bloody delicious. Translated into English, they’re literally ‘oily balls’, which definitely isn’t the theme of the evening, and someone needs to remind me not to literally translate everything.

Think of a thicker doughnut. Literally a ball. And then fill it with delicious fillings. Nutella, apple, raisins, cinnamon. Ah, they have them all. I am an apple fan myself, and I’ll be heading out to one of the special Olibollenkraan’s that pop up everywhere over the festive period in a few hours to join the rest of the village in buying their oily balls. The queue will probably include every single person in the village, but that’s the price you pay for wanting the freshest oily balls on offer.

Indulge in said oliebollen

Don’t just eat one, try all the flavours. Twice.

At one point I was worried that I would have to choose a flavour, but no, that’s not the Dutch way. This New Year’s Eve I spoke to a Dutch friend who informed me that she had already eaten 5 oliebollen before she even turned up to our shindig, and then I’m almost certain she ate at least 2 more whilst she was with us. Guys, I have found my people.

Turn on the top 2000

Does anyone know how long it takes to play 2000 songs??? Literally many hours. That’s good though, because we’re all staying up late tonight. Until at least 12pm, which is when the last song is played in fact!

Each year, the Dutch spend a good portion of time voting for their top 2000 favourite songs (of all time, no less), and, as these things go, these top 2000 songs are played in order from worst to best. Last year I think Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody actually made it to number 1. Well done Rami and Freddie.

This year, Bohemian Rhapsody also made it to number 1. And apparently it’s been number one now for a few years running, so I’m not sure if the voting is rigged or not, but clearly there are a lot of Queen fans in this country.

Go for a good old New Year’s dive

Forget oily balls, it’s time for steely balls, because on the morning of the 1st January, you’ll find many villagers, townsfolk and city dwellers alike going for a refreshing dive into icy Dutch waters. That’s right, Dutch people literally leg it into the North Sea (or any available lake, stream, river, etc) as if their life depends on it, in nothing but their smalls and a bobble hat.

Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

I’ve heard it’s invigorating, and refreshing, exceptionally healthy and a fantastic way to welcome a new year. I have never once been told about all the people that get a head cold for the rest of January after taking part, or hypothermia for that matter. These Dutchies are clearly made of strong stuff.

No I am not taking part. Ever.

So that’s it. That’s my rundown of what happens in the Netherlands every oudjaarsavond. As traditions go, they’re not all crazy, but some could do with a little rethinking (New Year’s Dive, I’m looking straight at you). As for me, I spent the night eating, drinking and being as merry as you can when you’re still a little bit petrified of messing up your Dutch. I’m just glad everyone else was drunk.

Just while you’re here…

We actually got a code red for mist on New Year’s Eve, which was pretty eerie. It meant that we couldn’t see the fireworks properly and people were warned to have an impromptu sleepover if they had driven to their hosts house for a party.

This is how the world looked at midnight from our bedroom window…


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  • Nikki says:

    I loved this post so much, I could hear your voice reading it to me with each sentence!! You really captured the Dutch NYE (I will always refer to it as that) beautifully!

  • Jasmine says:

    Hi Simone!

    Such a lovely and informative article on NYE in the Netherlands! I was in disbelief in what a war zone the streets become! Glad to hear you’re safe and were able to keep your eyes open until midnight. Gelukkig nieuwjaar!

    • Simone says:

      Gelukkig Nieuwjaar to you too Jasmine! How did Morty find the fireworks???
      Hahaha is there anything I forgot to include in there??? Honestly, I’ve never known people to set off fireworks in the daytime before I moved to this country xD I will never get used to it I don’t think!!!

  • Vicky says:

    Nothing wrong with having an inner Grandma, I do too!! 😝
    May have to try these oily balls.
    Love your little blogs ❤️

    • Simone says:

      If only I had some quality street and an English cuppa to get me through hehe.
      Unfortunately, by the time you come over, oily balls will have disappeared, but maybe I can buy us a self make mixture – I’ll check out the shops tomorrow.
      Thank you so much for reading and I’m really glad you enjoyed it <3

  • Manon says:

    I’m such a grandma, this year was the first time in the last four years I was awake till midnight haha! I love reading about our traditions through your eyes, you’re so funny! I miss our conversations at work..

    • Simone says:

      I salute you Manon. Next year we will party together, and by that I mean tuck ourselves under the duvet at nine with a good book and an oliebol or three. I’m glad you find them funny, I don’t know if I’m being weird sometimes. I miss our conversations at work too, we need to catch up ASAP. xx

  • Orlagh says:

    Oily balls all day babeh! I’ve had similar ones before (doughnuts not literally oily balls) and they were delicious 😍

  • Dalia says:

    Pretty much how our night went, too! Lol I was even the bringer of oily balls and appleflappen… in addition to chocolate chips cookies. Not gonna lie, I was surprised that I was able to hang til 3am! Look at me! All preggo and able to keep up with the kids!

    • Simone says:

      Whoa, 3am is good going! I was tucked up and out with the lights by 2pm sharp xD. Ahhh, I didn’t even think to get chocolate chip cookies. They would have been such a good addition, and now I’m craving them haha.