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Seasonal Dutch expressions for holidays and festivals

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Learning a new language becomes especially enjoyable when you start to discover expressions that tie into the culture’s holidays and festivals. In the Dutch language, many phrases and sayings are unique to various seasons and festivities. Let’s unlock some of the most vibrant seasonal Dutch expressions that you might encounter or wish to use during holidays and special occasions in the Netherlands.

Vrolijk Kerstfeest!
This is a cheerful greeting meaning ‘Merry Christmas!’ It’s widely used during the Christmas holidays in Dutch-speaking regions.

We wensen je een Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een gelukkig nieuwjaar!

Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!
New Year’s celebrations are incomplete without saying ‘Happy New Year!’ In Dutch, this warm new year greeting is omnipresent as a wish for happiness and prosperity in the year ahead.

Als de klok twaalf uur slaat, zeggen we allemaal Gelukkig Nieuwjaar!

Prettige Feestdagen!
Meaning ‘Happy Holidays!’, this phrase is a one-size-fits-all kind of wish that is often used when you want to wish someone well during the holiday season without specifying a particular holiday.

Ik wens jou en je familie Prettige Feestdagen!

Paasvreugde!
This expression, translating to ‘Easter Joy!’, conveys the happiness and celebration associated with the Easter holidays.

Tijdens het paasontbijt zei mijn moeder altijd, “Paasvreugde!

Oranje boven!
A popular Dutch slogan, particularly during Koningsdag (King’s Day), and soccer events, meaning ‘Orange on top!’ It refers to the Dutch royal family, the House of Orange, and is a way to show national pride.

Bij elke doelpunt scandeert de menigte “Oranje boven!

Alaaf!
Carnaval (Carnival) is a festival that’s widely celebrated in the southern parts of the Netherlands. “Alaaf” is the traditional greeting for this festivity and you’ll hear it often during parades and celebrations.

Iedereen riep “Alaaf!” toen de praalwagen passeerde.

Gezellige Sinterklaas!
Refers to having a cozy or fun Saint Nicholas’ Day. Sinterklaas is celebrated on December 5th when Saint Nicholas is said to bring presents to children. “Gezellig” translates to cozy, convivial, or fun.

Laten we vanavond een Gezellige Sinterklaas vieren met veel pepernoten en cadeaus!

Vastelaovend!
This word is the Limburgish way of saying ‘Carnival.’ The carnival season, which involves lots of feasting and dressing up, is referred to as Vastelaovend in the province of Limburg.

Ik kan niet wachten tot Vastelaovend; ik heb mijn kostuum al klaar!

Nieuwjaarsduik!
The ‘New Year’s Dive’ is a Dutch tradition where people plunge into the sea or lakes on New Year’s Day. It’s a refreshing way to start the year – quite literally!

Dit jaar doe ik mee aan de Nieuwjaarsduik; ik verheug me erop!

Elfstedentocht!
An almost mythic speed skating race that translates to the ‘Eleven Cities Tour’, it takes place in the province of Friesland when the canals freeze over. It’s a rare and eagerly anticipated event due to climate.

Als het koud genoeg is, hopen we dat de Elfstedentocht dit jaar doorgaat!

Using these festive Dutch expressions will not only enrich your vocabulary but also provide you with insight into Dutch culture and traditions. Whether you’re wishing someone ‘Vrolijk Kerstfeest’ or shouting ‘Alaaf’ during Carnaval, each saying brings you closer to feeling at home in the Dutch language and its seasonal celebrations.

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