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Christmas in the Netherlands with P&O Ferries


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The season of good will is upon us. If you’re looking to try something a bit different this year or are looking for a bit of an adventure during what Andy Williams, and yours truly, would refer to as ‘the most wonderful time of the year’ then hop aboard with P&O Ferries and spend Christmas in Holland.

The way Christmas is celebrated in the Netherlands is not all too different to how we do it in the UK, but there are a few additions which you will not want to miss. For starters the weather won’t be much different, provided we don’t have yet another ‘unusual’ winter you’ll be looking at averages of 6 degrees, there’s slightly less rainfall than in the UK too. So ‘pack warm’ really goes without saying.

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If you aren’t acquainted with Dutch customs one of the major distinctions is that in Holland, the traditional figure of Sinterklaas has a position of eminence in the season. Sinterklaas meaning ‘St Nicholas’ has been amalgamated in to Santa Claus, however the Dutch have him too, as a separate entity. As you can see by the picture of Sinterklaas he is confusingly dressed in very similar attire to the bloke from the north pole but the two characters are very different.

Sinterklaas arrives in Holland every year by boat, from Spain, and has a grand parade in a different city each year, which is televised all across the country. This year Sinterklaas is arriving in Amsterdam on Sunday13th November. He doesn’t come alone, the parade boats should span up to a kilometre bedecked with ‘Zwei Piet’ or ‘Black Peters’ something like Santa’s elves, only a bit more contentious. The onlooking crowd gather along canals to wave in Christmas and are thanked in turn by the float riders with treats and sweets. Definite fun for the family, for more information click here.

Another part of Christmas in the Netherlands that you just won’t find here is the Mid-Winter Horn Blowing, don’t let this catch you by surprise. Take accommodation in the east country and you’ll find throughout the days of Advent at dawn some of the locals will draw out huge horns made of elder and let them call out above wells as has been done throughout the ages. Many attribute this as a Christian tradition but some of the symbolism involved has its roots in pagan theatrics.

Whereas Boxing day in the UK tends to be, for a lot of us, dedicated to digestive intensive care in Holland Christmas is celebrated over two days including December 26th. It’ll mean carol services are a bit more accessible as the crowds can spread over both nights.

Should you find yourself missing a bit of traditional British Christmas fare during your stay in Holland then stop by Deventer on the weekend before Christmas for their annual Dickens Festival. You’ll find Deventer due east of Utrecht just as short drive from the capital and a straight shot off the ferry in Rotterdam.

The purpose of this festival is to bring the pages of Dickens to life, everywhere you turn you’ll see famous and infamous characters as well as some of the smaller but equally beloved roles. For some of us it just doesn’t get more Christmassy than Victorian era Dickens. There will be stalls a-plenty to do some shopping as well as vendors for a Christmas bowl of smoking Bishop, Bob!

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If all this talk of Winter, and Christmas is getting too much for you then there is some light at the end of the tunnel. Whilst everyone else is regretting their midwinter indulgence or abstaining this January, you could book yourself a get away for the latter half of the month and reign the true Dutch New Year with the opening of the new Tulip Season. Rather than prancing about in revelry, which is, of course, perfectly acceptable in moderation, celebrate the new year in a more soulful way, by appreciating some of the first flowers of 2017. Tulips are big business in Holland, come National Tulip Day on January 21st you won’t want to be anywhere else other than Dam Square in the country’s capital. Tulip growers assemble a huge garden comprised of the blooms outside the Royal palace of Amsterdam that’s completely free for anyone to come and pick. Tulip season lasts until the end of April, the transformation of a central in the Amsterdam to a vibrant colourful garden in the midst of winter is truly something to behold.

For traditional New Years Eve revellers, be warned Amsterdam is party central so get your bookings in early lest ye be disappointed.

Book now with P&O Ferries for your Hull to Rotterdam trip this winter, this season tends to get a bit hectic, so plan ahead!

Image Credit: Jason Popesku , Michell Zappa , Lennart Tange

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