Since I have lived in the Netherlands, I have had the joy of celebrating many birthdays here. There are several things that Dutch people do when celebrating birthdays. One of the main things is getting the family and friends together for a night of drinks and food for the birthday girl/boy. This is what I will be talking about in this blog. A traditional Dutch birthday!
To start of a typical Dutch birthday, it is very traditional to say “Gefeliciteerd” to everyone who has a connection with the birthday girl/boy. This just means congratulations! It is usually just close family that are congratulated on the birthday day. When I first discovered this, I found it rather cute but also strange. I have grown accustomed to it now and find it very normal! It is a lovely way to bring family together and celebrate the birthday girl/boys birthday!
The birthday party
Whenever I think of birthday parties, I think of DJs, dancing and a food buffet with cake! This would be a very typical birthday party for me back when I was a child. I would call a dutch birthday celebration a party because you have a lot of people coming together to celebrate a special occasion. Maybe it should be called a birthday get together?
Regardless of the name, a typical Dutch birthday party will usually consist of several ‘stages’. The coffee and tea, the cake and pie, then the food and drink!
Coffee and Tea
This is the beginning of the birthday celebrations. When people start to arrive, the birthday girl/boy will welcome the guests and be wished gefeliciteerd. Chairs are usually spread around a table (or if the weather is nice, having chairs outside as well as ‘beer tables’ for people to stand at with their drinks.) At the beginning, this will also be when the guests present gifts to the birthday girl/boy. Usually a bouquet of flowers and a card with money.
Once the majority of guest have arrived, it is customary for the birthday girl/boy and their partner (usually the people that live in the house) to offer tea or coffee to the guests. We tend to have my partners mother helping us as well cause she is wonderful! Once everyone has had their fair share of discussions and coffee and tea, it is onto cake!
Cake and pie
Same as the coffee and tea, the birthday girl/boy and their partner (and whoever wants to help) asks each of the guests what type of cake or pie they would like. Typically these are based on what the birthday girl/boy would like to have. I tend to pick very neutral cakes since I cannot have really sweet things. So my partners mother picked me up a vanilla slice cake, a strawberry cake and a raspberry cake with white chocolate flakes on it. That one was new to me so I had to try it! Sometimes I would love to have an apple pie at parties, however I have them more than cakes.
Once everyone has selected what cake or pie they would like, slices are then served onto plates and handed to everyone to eat with a fork. Usually more coffee and tea will be served during this time as well. Once cake has been consumed, it is onto snacks and drinks!
Snacks and drinks
This is the party that everyone loves. A variety of snacks are placed around the table. It is very normal here in the Netherlands to purchase trays of snacks for special occasions, like birthdays! Bowls of nuts, plates of mini toasts and spread, crisps. You name it, it will probably be put on the table.
The tray of snacks can contain several different items of food. When purchasing a tray, you just select the one that has food that everyone will enjoy. There are many different varieties of snack trays! My partners mother also made several items for the party too. Another traditional food to eat at parties are stuffed eggs. These are delicious, although I sadly cannot eat too many otherwise my stomach protests.
This is also when beers, wines and a variety of drinks are given to the guests, and the snacking and chatting can commence. When everyone has their drink, this is also when everyone would cheers or ‘Proost’ the birthday girl/boy!
What about the birthday song?
It is very traditional in Scotland to sing the birthday girl/boy the birthday song. This is not the case in the Netherlands. There IS a song, however this is usually sung either with close family, for younger children or if the party is massive and everyone just wants to sing a song. The song was actually sung during dinner with my partners mother, father, sister and family. The birthday song is called Er Is Er Een Jarig. The video shows what the song sounds like.
And that’s all folks!
That is really all there is to it! Once guests start to depart from the party, the birthday girl/boy will see them to the door and thank them for coming with the traditional 3 kisses on the cheeks (this also happens whenever you meet someone for the first time that day. It is super cute.) Then it is just a case of tidying everything up and settling in for the night.
I really do enjoy these birthday parties. Sure, when I was younger I would usually have birthday parties. However as I grew older, these were never really a thing. Usually it would be a hug from everyone I would see that day, a birthday dinner of my choosing as well as birthday cake. I love how in the Netherlands, it is a very normal thing for family and friends to come together to always celebrate birthdays. It makes the day feel super special, even if it is not your birthday!
Do you have any traditional birthday celebrations where you live? I am really curious so please let me know!