Celebrating Life, the Dutch Way

Celebrating Life, the Dutch Way

In the beautiful city of Haarlem, the atmosphere is vibrant with the sound of infectious laughter, while the sweet scent of apple crumble fills the room. This doesn’t simply signal a birthday, but a celebration where Dutch people come together to share moments and enjoy each other’s company. The group birthday party for Lies and her sons, Idse and Joppe, was more than just a milestone for them; it was a testament to the Dutch culture that puts an emphasis on celebrating everyone rather than celebrating the individual.

In Dutch culture, Birthdays are not just a celebration of personal progression; they are a celebration of the collective, a time to gather with everyone you love, and a reminder that all of life’s joys and moments are so much better when shared. It is even common for everyone at the event to be congratulated for being related to or friends with the birthday girl/boy. As the heart of the celebration was explored, all of these features of a common birthday in Dutch culture, became very apparent.

“It is a very normal celebration as you see. It’s really more about bringing everyone together to have a good time. People we don’t necessarily get to see all of the time.” Lies explained. With this she sheds light on the simplicity yet significance of Dutch birthday celebrations. It’s not about expensive gifts or being the star of the show but rather creating a space for family and friends to reconnect and join together to celebrate life in general.

It is a tradition in Dutch culture for the birthday girl/boy to serve the guest rather than be served. This was very apparent at the party as Lies and her sons went above and beyond their hosting duties by making and serving many different drinks and snacks to everyone at the party. They were very keen on making sure that everyone’s glass was full at all times. Weather that be the choice of water, tea, wine, champagne, or beer. This was a gesture of appreciation to all the guests for the shared joy of the event.

The informal seating arrangements, a departure from the traditional circle formation, reflected the purpose of the party. Which was to bring everyone together and allow for meaningful connections and conversations. As friends and family disperse around the different rooms, it allows a chance to meet new people and spark interesting conversations you might not have otherwise had. “I prefer it this way, it’s a lot easier to talk to everyone when there aren’t a million conversations happening all at once.” A party goer explained with a grin on her face.

Culinary choices, such as apple crumble, lentil soup, and chicken soup, were not just about the taste but more about embracing the inherent comfort in the Dutch cuisine and culture. The menu choices reflected the purpose of the event; creating a welcoming atmosphere of warmth and familiarity, furthering the idea that birthdays are an opportunity for everyone to feel at home for the night.

As the night progressed, the boys gathered to watch football, seamlessly integrating a cherished past time into the birthday festivities. The sound of cheering and laughter echoed throughout the house as they drank their beers and enjoyed each other’s company. The camaraderie flowed effortlessly into ongoing bored games, showing the true Dutch love for shared moments and engaging in activities as a group.

Lies, Idse, and Joppe’s Birthday party exemplifies the cultural perspective when it comes to celebrations, where togetherness is more important than self. From the informal setting to the choice of food, and serving traditions, each element reflects a certain kind of richness that is unique to the Dutch culture.

About The Author

Victoria Cetrone

Victoria Cetrone, also known as Tori, finds herself in Utrecht studying Cultural Journalism after one Spring vacation influenced her majorly. Tori is a twenty-year-old student from Florida in the United States. She is in her third year of university, where she studies Communications back home. In Spring of 2023 she visited numerous major cities in the Netherlands. She enjoyed her trip so much that upon arriving back in the states she immediately enrolled in a study abroad programme and set her sights on Utrecht. “I enjoyed my trip so much that I wanted to move here, and I applied straight away when I got back”. Her interests vary from all things travel to theatre. Since engaging in theatre from a young age she developed her passion for screenwriting and production. Watching films is also one of her many hobbies, however Tori’s ideals for a future career are on the other side of the camera. “I would like to work in the movie industry, maybe interning at a production office”. Her goals are supported by her extroverted personality and keen interest to meet new people. Although sometimes daunting, she enjoys pushing herself outside of her comfort zone. Tori is certain to follow a route of success with motivation coming easy to her once it concerns working on projects that she is passionate about.