Celebrating national Christian holidays in the spring
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Most of the Dutch celebrate a number of Christian national public holidays in the spring. This is because of the Christian history of the Netherlands. Read more about what people celebrate and how it works here.
Four important public holidays for everyone
Less than half of the Dutch still call themselves religious. Yet most Dutch people celebrate four Christian festivities in the spring: Good Friday, Easter, Ascension and Pentecost.
These festivities are also celebrated by non-believers. Below you can read for each public holiday how they are celebrated in the Netherlands.
Good Friday and Easter (7, 9 & 10 April 2023)
Good Friday and Easter are important days for Christians. According to the Bible, Jesus was crucified and buried on Good Friday. But on Sunday morning, his followers discover that his tomb is empty.
The Bible tells us that Jesus rose from the dead on that day. On Good Friday and Easter, people attend special church services to remember Jesus' crucifixion and celebrate his resurrection from the dead.
Even non-believers celebrate Easter. For example, decorating and hiding Easter eggs as a sign of new life in spring. Many people celebrate Easter with family and friends by eating breakfast together. We call this Easter breakfast. During such a breakfast, most people eat Easter bread and eggs, among other things.
Ascension Day (18 May 2023)
On Ascension Day, Christians commemorate that Jesus went to heaven. It is traditionally celebrated on the 40th day after Easter. The Bible says that between Easter and Ascension, Jesus spread the Christian faith on earth in 40 days. This year, Ascension falls on Thursday, 18 May.
According to the Bible, the ascension took place on the Mount of Olives in East Jerusalem, where Jesus told his disciples to continue spreading the Christian faith. As his disciples looked on, Jesus ascended and disappeared from sight. This is seen as the end of Jesus' presence on earth.
Special services are held in many churches on Ascension Day. It is also an official day off, so most people are free from work or school. Some places hold events such as parades, concerts and sports activities. These events are also for non-Christians.
Pentecost (28 & 29 May 2023)
Pentecost takes place on the 50th day after Easter. This year it is on Sunday, 28 May and Monday, 29 May. The Bible says that at that time Jesus' disciples found the courage to spread his message. Therefore, many Christians see Pentecost as the beginning of the Christian church.
Most Christian churches in the Netherlands hold special church services on Pentecost Sunday and Pentecost Monday. Although Pentecost is a national public holiday in the Netherlands, not everyone celebrates it as extensively. Unlike Easter, for example.
Like Ascension, Pentecost is also less visible in public life. There are no special decorations or dishes to eat on Pentecost. Although some Dutch people still make a traditional Pentecost bread.
Other store opening hours
During all these public holidays, many stores are closed or open at different times. Find out about the opening hours of a store near you to make sure you can do your shopping.
Not everyone can have the time off work
Most people are off during these public holidays, but not everyone. If you want to know for sure where you can have the time off, check with your employer.