Hello! Happy New Year lovely readers – I hope you managed to make 2020’s festive period, well, festive. With New Year well and truly upon us, I thought I’d give a little insight into something else with a celebratory edge: Dutch birthday traditions. Want a full run down of the who, what, when, where and why? You don’t need to ask me twice 🎂🥂🥳.
What birthday party is complete without a Colin the Caterpillar cake from Marks & Sparks?
A Dutch birthday party.
That may sound like a badly written cracker joke, but I can assure you it isn’t.
Whilst British tradition sees your nearest and dearest secretly buying you a birthday cake and having it brought out with a full on song and dance in a Chinese restaurant in the middle of Crewe – oh, is that just me? – you won’t be faking any surprise in a Dutch household.
No, the birthday person must supply their own cake.
The cake in question is most likely an apple taart, which is a staple of any Dutch Circle party.
If you’re in the north, you may be blessed with oranjekoek. Other favourites include hazelnoot schuimtaart, which is deightfully light, meringue-y, and, believe it or not, hazelnut flavour. There’s the hearty vlaai, of which there is almost every flavour you could imagine, aaaaand they also love a good pastry.
As long as you supply it yourself, birthday person, everyone is gonna enjoy your cake.
By the way, I mean at work too. So not only do you have to supply your entire friend and family circle with cake, but your colleagues too. You definitely could not get that many slices out of a Colin.
The Circle party
Ah, you’ve been invited to a Dutch party – een feest. That’s cool. I hope you like Pass the Parcel, because you’ll spend the entire time sat in a circle.
The Circle Party is a Dutch birthday tradition that used to fill me with fear.
As a newbie in the Netherlands, nothing used to scare me more than an invitation to a circle party. There are no corners to hide behind in a circle. That means everyone sees you dipping in and out of the snack plates repeatedly. And if someone speaks really loudly, grabbing the attention of the rest of the circle, you better be ready to spit out those answers loud and clear because you’re about to find a lot of eyes on you.
As my level of Dutch improved, and my family and friend ties became stronger, I started finding Dutch circle parties a whole lot less stressful.
The Circle Party Food & Drink
The best part of any party is the food, am I right or am I right?
A good old British party could involve anything when it comes to food and drinks. Some people want a party buffet that includes cheese and pineapple on sticks, others want an Indian take away (I’m literally both types – I’d find it super hard to come up with a definitive answer).
A good old Dutch circle party on the other hand, has a pretty stable food and drinks menu that won’t be diverted from often, so you can always count on your favourite snacks being on the table.
To begin with, you’ll be served tea or coffee with a slice of
Colin Caterpillar appeltaart (or whichever cake the birthday person chose).
After the tea and coffee you move onto ‘iets fris’ a.k.a soda or cordial OR ‘wijn ofzo’ a.k.a wine or anything alcoholic.
Oh my god I actually love Dutch parties.
This is when the snacks start coming. The cheese blocks, the mountains of sausage, the salty crackers, the kip kerrie 😍. Guys, it turns into a feast!
Once the snacks have been depleted, your host’ll probably pull out a massive pan of soup or two that they’ve been tending to every now and then when they ‘popped to the kitchen’.
There are usually two or three choices of soup: tomato, chicken, or mushroom (for the vegetarians). TIP: Don’t EXPECT the tomato soup to be veggie-friendly in NL!! It usually comes with tiny meatballs in it! So always check if you every find yourself at a traditional Dutch birthday party!
Finally, the snack plates will be replenished, so you (I) can stuff yourself silly to avoid talking in broken Dutch…
One of the strangest Dutch birthday traditions I’ve ever had to get my head around is the congratulations bestowed on, well, everyone.
The first time I experienced this was my very own boyfriend’s birthday 3 years ago, which was a week after I’d landed on Dutch soil. I wasn’t overly prepared for everything that was to come, I’m sure you can imagine.
CONGRATULATIONS!! Everyone was so happy to congratulate MOI on being part of the birthday boy’s life. I mean sure, I’ll take it – I’m not going to complain! But… why? Quite simply, I don’t know. It just is.
To congratulate someone on their birthday in the Netherlands, you simply need to shout gefeliciteerd!!!! at them, open your arms, and wrap them in a bear hug. Also, give them three kisses (although not now cuz ‘Rona).
Then do the same thing to anyone at the circle party, or in their immediate family or friend group.
Traditional Birthday words & phrases
- Gefeliciteerd! [ghhuu-fuh-liss-ih-teerd] – Congratulations!
- Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag! [ghhuu-fuh-liss-ih-teerd met juh fer-jaar-dagghhh] – Congratulations on your birthday!
- hieperdepiep hoera! [heap-er-der-peep hurrah] – hip hip hooray!
- Jarige Job [yar-ighuh yob] – what you’d call whoever’s birthday it is.
- Feest [fayst] – party
What do you make of the traditional Dutch birthday celebrations? To me they’re such a normal part of life now that I have been known to congratulate English family members on someone else’s birthday. It goes down like a lead balloon I’ll tell you that for free.
Until next time, stay safe!