The Dutch celebrate New Year’s Eve/Day (Oud en Nieuw) in their very own way! Let’s look at the top 3 notable traditions of the Dutch New Year:



Eat up, my friends!

Who doesn’t love deep-fried balls of dough covered in powdered sugar?! The direct translation of this very Dutch treat is “oily balls” and I must say it aptly sums up these tasty calorie bombs.

Oliebollen have a dumpling-like shape and resemble a homemade doughnut. As soon as the temperature drops in the Netherlands, enterprising Dutchies set up outdoor market stands and sell these sweet treats on every corner. The smell alone will have your mouth-watering even before you take the first bite. Traditionally, these doughy balls are made, and ate, at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Historically speaking they are said to have been first eaten by Germanic tribes in the Netherlands between December 26 and January 6. During this time, the Germanic goddess Perchta would fly through the sky with a tribe of evil spirits. Apparently to appease these nasty spirits oliebollen were offered. The myth goes on to tell of how Perchta would try to slice open the bellies of anyone she came across but  – luckily –  her sword would simply slide off  the bellies of all those who had eaten the tasty balls of oil!

Need to fight some evil spirits of your own this holiday season or looking to impress your NYE gezellig guests? Check out our fool-proof recipe.


Sure, most countries celebrate New Year’s Eve with the occasional firework, but make no mistake: this ain’t your pretty little light show put on by the local municipality! No, no my friends, this Dutch tradition could more so be described as COMPLETE-AND-UTTER-EXPLODING -CHAOS!

Dutchies young and old take to the streets, the parks, the public squares – essentially everywhere and anywhere – and literally start blowing shit UP! The first words that will come to most expats/tourists/foreigners lips when describing the evening of the 31st is “war zone”, and in fact, it’s not too far from the truth. The Dutch sky starts to light up as soon as the sky goes dark, and the clangs and bangs don’t stop until the wee wee hours of the morning.

Is it not dangerous, you ask? Why, yes it is. Last year, the Dutch government reported that over 700 people were injured: 5 hands amputated, several fingers removed, 236 eye injuries (91 of them with permanent damage) and 23 cases of blindness. 190 ambulances, 270 police cars, and 233 firetrucks were dispatched. So, yes my friend, there is indeed a lot of action on this night!

It seems however, that the Dutchies are divided on this issue. In a recent survey, 50% of Dutch people would like to see more restrictions on the festivities, whereas the other 50% are staunch defenders of this beloved “Dutch tradition”. Perhaps a few more lost eyes, will swing the vote? 😉 😉

New Year’s “Dive”

New Year's Dip at Zandvoort in 2015 : photo courtesy of 105mm

New Year’s Dip at Zandvoort in 2015 (photo courtesy of 105mm)

Of all the Dutch traditions, this one is definitely my favourite. In fact, this year I’m hoping to literally jump in and join the masses! Each year thousands of crazy Dutchies wade the frigid winter waters of the North Sea on 1 January for the annual New Year’s swim/dive.

The swim takes place in over 130 locations across the country, however the seaside town of Scheveningen gathers the largest crowd, with normally over 10,000 arctic swimmers! 2015 will be the 57th year of the tradition.

New Year’s dives are held all over the world, however the Netherlands boasts the most dive sites and the largest number of participants. (One of the oldest New Year’s dives actually takes place in Canada with the Vancouver “Polar Bear Club”organising the swim since 1920). For more information on how to join in the fun visit:

So my dear readers, wherever and however you celebrate the new year – make it a safe one! I, for one, hope to enjoy all 3 of the above-mentioned traditions! 

p.s. Don’t worry, we didn’t forget about the “Top 2000”! You read all about it over here.


60 Responses

  1. Dick

    Your forgetting ‘Appelflappen’ ..;) ! basically the same but then with slices of apple inside and in a more flat and oval shape covered in sugar. My favourite ..

    • tkdoll

      those are appelbeignets 😉 the appelflap is made with puff pastry 🙂 I hope u will have a great change of years!!

    • Joel

      Love this! My Mom is carrying on the tradition from my grandparents and making both! Yum!

    • Andre, PE1PQX

      Sorry Dick, those are ‘Appelbanjees’…. (just to make it a littel bit difficult)

    • manon

      Those are appelbeignets , appelflappen are with puff pastry

    • Jan

      Dick: Those are ‘appelbeignets’. Appelflappen are the triangular ones that are baked in the oven.

    • Stevina

      And “appelflappen” resemble more like donuts than “oliebollen”. Enjoyed them both on Newyears Eve.

  2. Leon

    Well, you summed that up pretty neat 😀

    Especially loved the part “start blowing shit UP!” because that’s not far from the truth.

    Enjoy your evening with ‘oliebollen’ and please, please .. If you’re gonna blow shit up, …. make it count :-O

  3. Kellie Wachter

    When I lived ther years ago we were amazed at the streets swathed in bits of red firecracker paper, and even more amazed that every scrap of it was swept up and gone before noon on New Year’s Day.

    • Stella

      Amazing, indeed. I remember the year that we visited my mum. When we drove into the quarter, we gasped: clean street and boxes full of red scraps waiting for the garbageman. It is a common resentment that often all the mess ist left in the street after the festivities. Oh yeah, yesterday I saw some broken wine-glasses on the street.

    • Cees

      Well Kellie, that was in the early days. Nowadays everybody waits for someone else to clean it up. And eh, thats the city cleaning service or the weathergods. Depends on who’s the first!

  4. Marrigje

    I miss a very important Dutch tradition. The Top 2000!! I agree it is a rather new tradition, but never the less, a traditon

  5. Karin

    Don’t forget about “melkbus schieten”. 😉 That sounds really like war!

  6. Mary Glendinning

    I remember every New Year’s eve my grandfather would make oiliebollen and Appleflappen. We loved these sweet, greasy confections! That along with dutch meat croquettes with dutch mustard were annual treats in our house. Thanks for the recipe – I’m making them tonite!!

  7. Theo

    Spent A New Years there once for my Oma’s 100th Birthday. I could not believe how the sky lit up at midnight with fireworks everywhere! Keep it up! We are not allowed stuff like that here in Canada, very dull and boring really!

  8. Dorothy

    I felt like I was back in Afghanistan my first 31 Dec in NL (and it started around noon!). The dogs and I were shell-shocked long before nightfall. I was very glad the 2nd year when it rained and literally dampened the explosive festivities.

    • Ilona

      But then it would be an evening like any other :-/ . No the year should end with a big bang and lots of beautiful fireworks. Either organized or with safe fireworks bit preferrably to be enjoyed from every street and every home.

  9. Stella

    A sliced appel circle. You need an appel corer.

  10. sieds

    It is the truth but things are going to change….. still i wish all of you a happy new year

    Sieds from Friesland

  11. Black Metal Valkyrie

    I really don’t think its funny to joke about disabilities.

    • Peter

      If you bring it upon yourself by reckless and unnecessary behaviour it’s just plain stupid. There are people who literally blow thousands of euros away. And then have to eat knakworst.

    • Stella

      It’s no jokes but bitter reality. For many teenager this is the only way to realise that that those terrible accident are real. Thats why former casualties act in the warning videos.

  12. Tom

    About the fireworks. I didn’t even know in other countries people couldn’t light their own, figured this was done all over the world.
    I’ve grown up in this tradition as a little kid and my dad bought kids fireworks for us which we were instructed and told how to use properly.
    Accidents never happened, not to me, no one in my family nor anyone I know period.

    So given proper guidance I’d say it shouldn’t be a problem. |


    During puberty we could buy our own firecrackers and used them to blow up dog turds (that’s a tradition as well btw), mailboxes and of course… telephone booths ( ahhhh those were the days).
    We would get up as early as we could on January 1st so we could scavenge the streets for unlit fireworks and sought ways to fire them. Sometimes if the fuses were too short, we’d extend them ourselves, or leave it up to the one “I’m not afraid of anything” kid or we picked them apart and used the powder in homemade fun stuff.

    In hindsight that was pretty dangerous/stupid/irresponsible, but hey… we were just being stupid kids doing stupid things.

    Being a father myself I don’t give my kids fireworks, nor do I light them myself anymore. reason.. I don’t want to give them the opportunity to be as stupid as I was and just hoping they’ll be as lucky as I was not to get hurt. Also, I’ve got a couple of dogs, loud bangs scares the sh*t out of them 🙂

    So yeah, I can see how this tradition can be frowned upon but you know.. . I’m not too enthusiastic about changing things like this. It’s sorta like a “too much sweet memories” thing.

    Also… Oliebollen. I think they’re just disgusting. It the sort of crap you’d expect to buy at mcdonalds.

  13. Lynn

    I remember in the 80’s they had another campaign to make the public more conscious about the dangers of fireworks.
    “En wat dan nog als je twee vingers kwijtraakt? Je kon toch al niet tot 10 tellen!”

    I always had to laugh at this one, for it was implying at the same time how dumb the victim was. Yes, I think people who play around with fireworks in a careless way are on the very topline of stupidity.

  14. Invader_Stu

    Every year I am amazed by the fire work madness. It seems to get more extreme ever New Years Eve. It’s like a war zone.

    • Stella

      There are “sterretjes”, the cold fire for children. I should not be dangerous, but of course it can be.
      Really madness was that family that put sterretjes in the christmastree. And lighted them. Yes, house burnt down.

      • Henk

        That’s the description we used to use for sparklers – ‘it’s only cold fire’ – haha! If only that was true. Try touching one… A spark can set a child’s polyester jacket alight in an instance.

  15. TFLittlefoot

    It’s been a while since I’ve been home for NYE (about 10 years), but I always used to love the fireworks, it’s very quiet over here on NYE (in the UK). I’ve always been a bit frightened of fireworks myself though, so I either stayed in to watch from the window or I stayed close to the house if I was outside. I never actually lit any fireworks myself. I love the tradition of celebrating oud & nieuw. But the next day there always used to be kids walking around looking for fireworks that hadn’t properly blown up, little idiots…

    Although the adverts were always quite brutal, I think they do send out the correct message of how dangerous fireworks can be, even if we have to take the piss out of people when doing it…

    • Marrigje

      Kids who were looking for not properly blown firework did that because if they handed them in, with the Police they could win something. On Texel (were I live) it was a bike. so we kept some firework left it outside in the garden, and the kids could hand it in :D.

  16. Lars

    I guess in the Randstad fireworks will be bad indeed, with so many people living so close to eachother.

    It’s only one evening in the year. Outside of the Randstad the real stuff is happening with ‘Carbidschieten’, firing a lid off an old milk can by using a chemical stone called ‘carbid’ that reacts and forms a gas when water is added. A small hole in the bottom of the milk can allows you to light the gas and that will, with a horribbly loud bang, shoot the lid off. For safety reasons some use balls instead of metal lids.

    This is done on the last day of the year, known as ‘old year’s day’. The reason for doing this is to scare away the bad ghosts with the loud bangs, like other fireworks really.

    Youtube is full of videos of this events. A larger more professional place where they always do this is in this vid:

    Oh and for fun you drink lots of strong alcoholic beverages ‘borrels’ while shooting…

    Another traditional snack/treat eaten especially in Drenthe (one of the provinces in the north-east) are Rollegies and Knieperties. I’m not sure how to describe it best but I’ll try haha. The last day of the year you eat Kniepertjes, a crunchy, thin, flat, round cookie. The i day of the new year you eat Rollegies (or rolletjes in proper Dutch) these are the same cookies only when they are still hot you roll them around a stick and wait untill they have cooled down and you take them off. You now have a rolled up hollow cookie. You can put whipped cream in there.
    The symbolism behind these cookies is that at the end of the year the entire year has ‘unfolded’ itself, and at the start of a new year the entire year is still rolled up before you.

  17. Henk

    When I was small we always used to go outside at midnight to watch the fireworks in the street. The best thing was that that’s what everyone did; all our neighbours were out in the street with their drinks, toasting each other and wishing each other a happy new year. A very social things and something I miss nowadays in the UK.

    • Samantha

      Exactly!!! The whole year you kind of see what is going on at your neighbours, because of the large windows without curtains. Sometimes you greet them as well, if you are both at the same time in the street. However, when the fireworks go up in the air and you’re outside with your oliebol, then you will finally talk to your neighbours, and kiss them, 3 times!! Sometimes, they will even invite you in their house for a drink and suprisingly you will find it gezellig. It might need some Dutch courage, but it is good start of the year, haha. Then the next day everything goes back to normal again.

  18. Peter

    I saw in 2015 in the Berlin suburbs and it was the same. A constant ROAR of explosions in every direction but very neighbourly. By 4 a.m. it was down to about 10 per minute. War zone is an apt description from this Australian’s point of view. It’s like they wanted to re-create the Russian invasion (once wasn’t enough apparently). And the weird thing is I think they liked the noise more than the light, given the amount of used fireworks I saw in the in the tunnels in the days afterward, and the fact that a light fog on NYE combined with the firework smoke to make an almost opaque smog.

  19. Johaness

    Guys please, you probably never been in South America…
    Such complains like that bears the ridiculous to nothing.

    • Arne

      Oh yes. 25 years ago I moved from the Netherlands to Curaçao. Just above Venezuela Curaçao is not only Caribbean but also partly Latin America in its customs. My first NYE was an eye-opener: Second NYE I spent on top of a hill, to watch it all go off and light and roar.

  20. Darkmanx

    Last new years eve, one of the news websites ran a ‘vuurwerkoverlast’ map, which displayed red dots for each complaint about obnoxious fireworks behaviour, with a large concentration of red dots in the worst affected places. Naturally the usual suspects had the latest concentration of red dots. And the map is a very useful guide to which neighbourhoods to avoid when looking for a house to buy.

    • Stella

      Bedoel je het verzamelen van kerstbomen die in januari gezamenlijk verbrand worden, onder toezicht van de brandweer?

  21. derkje

    Did anybody ever do “slepen”. I grew up where we did that on New Years eve. There was always the same neighbor who left stuff outside on purpose and would sit at the window trying to catch us take it away and drop off down the road so they would have to go find it in the morning. He never did catch us even though he called all the parents in the morning each year.

  22. Jantje

    What about swaffelen? I hear that’s a Dutch tradition! lol.

  23. Philip J van Beveren

    I live in Canada but the thing I mis most is fireworks from the ships in the harbor,as i was born and raised in Rotterdam that was one thing we where looking forward too.

    • Kees den Breejen

      Yeah, I remember as a kid, staying at my cousin’s house in Rotterdam on New Year’s Eve listening to the ships at 12 o’clock.

  24. Edward Kleingeerts

    and we had the blunder bus a tin with a small hole in the bottom a piece of carbide inside we all spit on it bang the lid on tight light a match hold it in front of the small hole and off came the lid with an allmighty bang

  25. Lara Dunning

    Not sure I would brave frigid waters in a bikini. Brrrr. I loved reading about the history of the Oliebollen and how far back the tradition goes.

  26. Kathleen McLennan

    In Kampen (close to Zwolle) they blow up milk cans.


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