verjaardagskalender

Step into any Dutch persons home and you will be sure to find one particular household oddity: the Birthday Calendar (de verjaardagskalender). And where, do  you ask,  would one find such an odd item? Well, in the most logical place — the toilet of course!

A Dutch person must never forget another Dutch person’s birthday. Doing so constitutes a major sin in the Lowlands. Dutch people can happily consult their handy birthday calendar while quietly sitting alone, going about their business on their porcelain throne.

And of course, the calendar is not just any kind of calendar, it’s sole purpose is for the recording of birthdays. Plus, it’s a perpetual calendar (sans dates or years) forsaking the need to purchase or update one every year. Ah –efficient and thrifty!

An important word of caution to SDPL readers

As tempting as it may seem, it is very important to note that it is never ever appropriate to record one’s own name and birth date onto another Dutch person’s calendar. Doing so would be considered a serious offense (and definitely a “no” on the Stuff Dutch People Like list). Can’t seem to find your B-day entry? Well, the official relationship-ranking is in and turns out you’re just not as close as you thought you were!

Feeling a tad cheeky? Or simply looking for the perfect payback? While visiting a Dutch persons house, ask to use the toilet and covertly erase a few entries from the beloved calendar. This action alone is  sure to throw the Dutch person in question’s life into complete chaos! Dat mag niet!

78 Responses

  1. Sarah Turley

    Alternatively, you can return from the smallest room, and mention to your host that they don’t seem to have put your birthday on their calendar. They will then feel obliged to fill it in at once, thus ensuring they’ll remember your birthday in perpetuity. But only if you are willing to invite them to your birthday party every year and treat them to coffee and cake.

    Reply
    • Martijn

      I would not ask that after having done serious business in there 😉

      Reply
  2. jes

    My father, an American, visited my mom’s family in holland after they were married. he had never seen a bday calendar before and he mistakenly thought you were supposed to use the space to write in your name when you used the bathroom. hahaha.

    Reply
    • anoniem

      LMAO

      birthdays are very important in Holland and bringing a cake is a must

      Reply
      • vincent van houten

        Not entirely true … host provides cake , not the visitor .

        Vincent van houten

      • Yvonne

        Not true, the host provides everything, from cake to drinks and snacks

    • Jeroen

      Hahahahahaha That’s hilarious!!! Now why would he have thought that! Essential for the statistics?? Haha Cute. 🙂

      Reply
    • Manuela

      HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA lol!!!!!!!!!! That is so funny!!!!!
      This comment just made my whole day, LOL! Thank you! 😀

      Reply
    • Nath

      HAHAHA LMAO it’s excellent but I can understand the confusion LOL

      Reply
  3. Rolf

    This blog can only be written by an invading outsider! I think I myself would not get much further than the standard stuff we know foreigners find typical: windmills, wooden shoes, tulips and cheese. Oh and herring, licorice and the colour orange. Definitely not toilet-birthday calendars. Being dutch and having grown up with the calendars, it never occurred to me that they’re odd (I don’t have one, though, but my parents, girlfriends’s parents, aunts and uncles all had one).

    Reply
  4. Jeroen

    I myself (Dutch) only have one at the toilet because I absolutely love this tradition. You gotta love cultural difference. Keep ‘m alive! 🙂

    Reply
  5. Linda Henderson

    How can I order a beloved birthday calendar? I’ve been looking all over for one like this?

    Reply
  6. jeanne applebee

    Where could I purchase a birthday calendar?

    Reply
  7. Bist

    A long time ago when I was a kid, I wrote my name on such a calendar at a birthday party. Oh my, the horror! I was only this far from being kicked out, and never was allowed in their household again.

    I do not own a birthday calendar, let alone hang it in the bathroom. Maybe unconsciously it has something to do with the story above…

    Reply
    • Manuela

      Seriously??? That is so rude!!! You were just a kid! :-O

      Reply
  8. How Very American | Maybe Someday…

    […] Melissa got the cake from the local Department Store Bakery. Although Birthdays are a very big deal  here, the birthday cake as we think of it is not the tradition in the Netherlands.  The standard […]

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  9. John R

    Very recognisable.
    Birthday calenders appear to be hallowed.
    If more than one toilet is present in the particular residence, the calender will therefore usually be placed in the toilet least frequented by visitors (e.g. upstairs).

    Reply
    • Irma Chilton

      Actually, in most Dutch homes I’ve been to, the birthday calender will be in the downstairs toilet where all the guests can see it 🙂

      Reply
      • Justin N

        I can confirm this as I’m dutch myself, birthday calenders are usually placed in the toilet downstairs (hallway usually)

  10. Okkie

    LOL, now I understand!

    A while ago a temporary co-worker from abroad filled in her name on the birthday calendar next to the coffee machine. We were all a bit stunned – almost insulted – by her taking the liberty to fill in her own name on that calender. Doesn’t she know she’s not supposed to do that if only because she’s only a part time temporary employee?

    I now realise she probably just learnt about the purpose on some integration course and just wanted to help out: “Ah… that must be one of those birthday calenders. Let’s fill in my name!”

    Reply
  11. Karin

    I am Dutch – have travelled the world and now live in the UK with my English husband. I own a verjaardagskalender given to me by friends when I left home to train as a nurse in Arnhem and wouldn’t do without it. It’s 25 yrs. old now and some ‘friends’ only hear from me on their birthdays and I wouldn’t want it any differently. However, I landed on this website because I’d like to get a new one because over the years I have crossed people out (typexed) simply because our paths have diverged. I love the site and will read up more!

    Reply
  12. Robert

    I don’t have a Bday calendar… That’s why I’m happy with Facebook 🙂

    Reply
  13. Barbara Backer-Gray

    Yeah, the birthday calendar in the half-bathroom was one of those things that immediately cracked my American boyfriend up. But let’s face it, it’s practical. The toilet is the smallest room in the house, and you spend time there just staring at the door six inches in front of you, so what better place to have the birthday calendar so you can’t miss it?
    We still have my birthday calendar from 1979 in our bathroom, with old friends and dead relatives and all, and newer ones added, but not recently, because now Facebook reminds us of birthdays…

    Reply
  14. Erik Bakker

    Lol… I never realised this was something typical Dutch.
    And the erasing names thing I really got to remember 😀

    Reply
  15. Susanne Veen

    It should be noted that the birthday calendar is also used for wedding dates, and dates of passing. The wedding symbol is a double ring or infinity symbol, and the death is a cross.

    Reply
  16. Alabaster Marita

    You can order them at ALL THINGS DUTCH !!
    My daughter and I just visited Holland – the Tante Tour and visited the aunts ..
    and bought St Nic goodies and drop and calendars for the girls – yes I have always had one..
    I have now lived here 31 years ..
    When I moved it from the loo downstairs upstairs I started to miss birthdays …

    Reply
  17. charlotte

    Hahahaha, i never realised that a birthday calendar is typically dutch. also common practice: writing a name of someone you don’nt know that well with a pencil. my ex-mother-in-law wrote my name with a pencil, so she could easilly erase it when necessary. the name of his sisters boyfriend was written down with a pen, because she ‘felt that she knew him better’. i must say, she did have good foresight 😉

    Reply
  18. Almira

    An ex-boyfriend of mine was so rude, he wrote his own name on my birthday calendar. Since we broke up I of course don’t want to see his name on my calendar anymore. Erasing it won’t help; it will still be visible. I therefore tore out the month of July but now I am still reminded of him every time June is past and my calendar goes straight to August. I hate him for spoiling my calendar. It’s so arrogant! The only solution is to buy a new calendar.

    Reply
  19. Dirkje

    Haha, i didn’t know this was something Dutch, although it had occured to me that is might be weird. My boyfriend and I just moved in together, in a lovely – gezellig – but tiny house, and the bathroom is supersmall. We bought a Verjaardagskalender the other day (a superawesome one), but there was a problem: it cant hang in our bahtroom! Haha we were both confused then. Evantually, we just hanged it in the living room.

    Reply
    • Jasper

      Hang it on the fridge in the kitchen… That’s what I do.

      Reply
  20. Ivan

    Goddamnit.
    I am sweating out of every pore now. Last year I was invited to a birthday of a Dutch guy I know for a while – we are not exactly the type who call each other every few days to catch up or anything… though it’s not like we’re just mere acquaintances either.

    That night, during the peak of my drunkenness, while I was doing No.1 in his toilet, I noticed the calendar and added my name….! Up until this moment I had no freekin’ idea it is such a mortal sin! Now I’m considering apologizing to him profoundly, since my bday is approaching… :O
    Jeez!

    Reply
  21. Leslie

    I have hunted for just this kind of calendar in the USA to post in my own throne room, having grown up with one kept by my (long deceased) Dutch-American mother. Not knowing what it is called makes an online search extremely difficult. Today scored a hit with the term “Dutch Calendar” and BINGO! Thank you!

    Reply
  22. Linda

    I’m dutch, and I have a birthday calendar. And yes, it’s on the wall of my toilet. I never actually use it, because I use facebook to remember the birthdays of my family and friends. But still I have one, because my toilet looks so empty without one :p.

    Reply
  23. Rachel

    My parents (both dutch) never used one, they probably thought it was tacky, I think – I should ask them. But I think everyone else in my family and my husband’s family (also dutch) has one. You can buy them at a Dutch store – if you live in an area with a lot of dutch people, I guess. We live in the Holland Marsh, Ontario area, so yeah, lots of dutch and a Dutch store right in town!! I wouldn’t know what to do if I couldn’t get my dropjes and King peppermints easily……

    Reply
  24. Thea

    Some generations ago the Dutch had big families. So for the mum, the multi-tasker, she came up with the idea to make a birthday calendar. When she had a ‘rest’ in the smallest room of the house looking at the door, she could plan who’s birthday cake to make next…. (just a thought)

    Reply
  25. 1karla

    actually, that is what happens. On sunday mornings I have a quick look to see which birthdays will need to be remembered with cards, flowers etc

    Reply
  26. Paulien

    This is totally brilliant. As a Dutch I must confess: yes its all true! I hate it if somebody puts his name (yes it happend to often at birthday parties), I want to write in in my own handwriting, not making a mess of my precious art calender. And I must confess I even wrote down a boyfriends name in pencil, judging rightly I would see if he would last…(My present steady boyfriend for years now wants to know if his name actually is in pen.) If it gets to messy, somebody of the family will need to write the whole calender again, let alone find a calender you love so much. Actually I think the calender is also used to express some of your personality… (hence me saying I have an ART calender, see how sophisticated I am?) I love cats, I support a non profit organisation, a very kitsch one so you can see the person is not bourgeous inspite of the old fashioned calender. Foreigners, please tell me -before facebook- how are you suppose to keep up with all the birthdays (and wedding days, passing dates etc)? There must a system? How can you be sure you dont forget to congratulate someone? Or you just don’t care? Fill me in!

    Reply
    • Gene

      Paulien,

      My mom (non-Dutch) uses a calendar, but it hangs next to her desk and it’s not a perpetual calendar, it’s a standard 12 month wall-calendar. At the beginning of each year she copies all the birthdays and anniversaries from the old into the new calendar.

      I’ll tell her about the Dutch system the next time I talk to her, but at her age I think the habit is too well established to change.

      Reply
      • Linda

        That’s exactly how we did it in the UK, and sending calendars to my relatives in Scotland and Slovenia is an annual tradition.

  27. Daphne

    Nowadays, with the hole “make your own coffeemug” online mania. You can create your own personal “verjaardags”calender!
    We made one for my parents last year for christmas. We collect photo’s of all familymembers and placed (one of two) photo’s each month. I reckon the issue ‘have you urned your spot on the calender”. But making a photo-calander makes this issue even bigger. Have you urned your photo at the calender?
    So now, my little sisters ex-boyfriend is the face of april at my parents bathroom! 😉

    Want to make your own verjaardagskalender? http://kalenders.hema.nl/verjaardagskalender. The website is in dutch, but maybe you can Google translate it. 😉
    Don’t know if they ship aboard, but HEMA is a big concern in Holland, so i think that they won’t make a fuss about it.

    Reply
  28. Minke

    As a true Dutch, I am actually wondering how people in other countries used to remember birthdays then? (before we had facebook etc) Tell me!

    Reply
      • Denise Braga

        I’ve always been very attentive to others birthday. Before mobiles and smartphones eisted, I used to note them in my agenda and every beginning of month I transferred them to each agenda’s page. Now I registered them in my iPhone and every day an alarm reminds me. But I have to admit that it has always surprised all my friends and family, not always people are so concerned abt it, andnow, Facebook made it easier. I love Dutch being so concerned abt reminding birthdays.

    • ilestoutonprince

      They either remember it or don’t. I dare say, almost all of them forget it!
      In Portugal we do not have the tradition of writting down birthdays, we just probably write down in our agendas or so.
      If you have a very big familly, like I have, than you just have to have a very good memory!
      It is a practical tradition, this one, but the fact the you hang on the toillet (quite practical as well) made laugh a lot, it sounds so strange!!

      Reply
    • Kris

      American here…my mom and I have had little spiral birthday notebooks from the card store that have the month on each page, lines to write down birthdays, and a folder to insert greeting cards. But I like the quirky tradition of the bathroom calendar and will be buying one in 2 weeks in the Netherlands. ha!

      Reply
      • Manuela

        Have fun in the Netherlands 🙂 Make sure you bring a coat, it’s yugh and wet and cold(ish) over here now 😉

  29. Sylvia

    When I got married more than 30 years ago, I swore I would never put my birthday calendar in the bathroom – it was just too Dutch for me! But after only a few months with it in my kitchen, I caved and moved it into the bathroom. It just didn’t seem right anywhere else! I wonder what my kids will do?

    Reply
  30. Lo

    thats so nice to findout lol…. i bought a calendar last year in holland. when it was jan 1st i unpacked it and found that there were no days and no year…..have been wondering for 3 months what was it for….. lollllllz

    Reply
  31. Peter

    When in Holland last year I went to buy a new calendar. I wanted an Anton Piek version, but apparently since his death, the estate has been contested, and they are out of print. So I had to settle for a calendar with Dutch masters – the Lady with the Pearl Earing stares at me relentlessly while I sit on the toilet, reading my favourite cycling magazine. Is that another thing Dutch people like, having magazines in the loo?

    Reply
    • Jasper

      Yes, we all have magazines/old newspapers/comics in the loo 😉

      Reply
  32. Momo

    What about the toilets decorated ala dutch? Fake Delft blue items all over and all kinds of Dutch paraphernalia… So funny!

    Reply
  33. Clarence

    Just recently my name has been added in the company’s (where more than 90% of the employees are Dutch) birthday calendar (albeit the digital version managed by the reception, not in the toilet). Thanks for reassuring me that I’ve finally made it to the coveted circle. I can finally die happy. 😉

    Reply
  34. Someone

    It just reminds me of a bad habit I took over from my dad.
    Somethimes when either of us see one hanging, we would write a random name at a random date.
    Just for fun having someone be puzzled who the hell that Stefan is, who’s birthday is coming up.
    🙂

    Reply
  35. Rob P.

    The birthday calendar is also apparently an Ohio tradition, as the Ohio wing of my family all has them. Just not in the bathroom.

    Reply
  36. Beth

    I’m American with Dutch heritage. My grandparents of Friesland/Groningen roots had one of these in their bathroom, but I was raised to call it the “Poop calendar.”(not sure if this refers to it’s generally place of residence?)

    Reply
  37. Nath

    This post in spto on really! The parents of my partner have one in their toilet, my name’s not on LOL At the begining I was very offended but know I can t care any less. Who wants to have their name put in int he WC huh?! Don t forget to make a post about allochtone and so on 😉

    Reply
  38. Laura Mooiman

    I am an American married to a Dutch man. I “stole” him away to America and have noticed that after 15 years of marriage my name does not show up on my mother-in-laws calendar, while my children and our anniversary does. Someone please tell me if I should take this personally!

    Reply
    • Almira

      @Laura: Yes. Absolutely. She obviously considers you as a temporary person in her life, or your name would have been written on the calendar years ago.

      Reply
  39. David

    A late reply to this post, but I just found this blog and it is absolutely fantastic! I was once on someone’s toilet which of course had a calendar hanging on the wall. Now here comes the best part as there was a genius expression involved: above the calander it said: “Wie hier schijt, moet zijn naam op de kalender kwijt!” (whoever takes a dump here has to dump his name on the calendar). So next to the calendar a pen was hanging on a rope, so you could fill out your own name! Problem solved!!!

    Reply
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    Reply
  41. Sharon

    I am currently as a dutchie in Australia. I found a birthday calendar on the toilet in a typical australian family! Not only dutchies have this strange habit!!:)

    Reply
  42. Andrea

    I am American, but I love my perpetual birthday/anniversary calendar. It is, however, a book that has pockets for each month so you can purchase cards ahead of time and store them ready to go in the appropriate month. The funny thing is my mother-in-law gave it to me, and though she was born and raised here, her mother came from the Netherlands. Maybe there is a connection…

    Reply
  43. Pete

    Normally a calendar will be provided by any service company, like insurance, bank, wildlife protection group, etc. for free.
    They’re mostly decorated with “attractive” themes like animals, birds, plants, historical paintings and landscapes. Blatant advertising is strictly forbidden as the calendar will end up in the garbage.
    An entry having been crossed out is not an offense. It simply means the person has passed away, so that’s also a moment of reflection.
    But feel free, take it off the nail and study. Make sure you get it back to the actual month afterwards!

    Reply
  44. emily

    Hahhaha and I thought this was just something my Oma did.

    Reply

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