'Tis the season to be jolly, 'tis the season to be festive, 'tis the season for Yays! The benefit of celebrating the festive season in another country opens doors to local traditions and new cultures, and that’s exactly what we want to give you in this blog; a taste of holidays in the Amsterdam neighbourhoods! From the legend of Sinterklaas to the special celebrations on Christmas Day, we offer you a guide to make your getaway in Amsterdam an unforgettable one!
Christmas markets & shopping
The atmosphere during the festive season in Amsterdam is contagious, and this can be felt all over! The city alone has plenty of markets throughout the year, but Christmas markets are something quite special. Nothing says Christmas like strolling between the stalls, hot chocolate in hand whilst admiring the decorations and finding the perfect gifts or just something for one’s self! Some of these markets are perfect for the entire family to visit with various activities for young and old. For instance, if you head over to the Amsterdam Christmas Market in the Amsterdam Noord neighbourhood this season, not only will you be greeted by Dutch Christmas music, but a complete winter wonderland complete with bingo, photobooths, mulled wine, and more. For the recommended list of our favourite local Christmas markets, click here.
For the avid shopper who has stomped a few high streets here and there, Amsterdam offers some superb shopping experiences. An example can be the nine streets, marked by lots of Christmas lights, cosy cafés and boutique shops! As London has Oxford Street and New York has Time’s Square, Amsterdam has Dam Square with Bijenkorf as our version of Harrods! Have a look at their fantastic window displays that will be sure to inspire that ultimate Christmas gift! And don't forget to try some of the tasty Dutch treats whilst you're at it.
For our culture-loving residents, Amsterdam has an assortment of concerts happening throughout the city! Spontaneous concerts such as those being held at the Geelvinck Pianola Museum will add a touch of Amsterdam flavour to the festivities with the traditional pianos on Christmas Day. From Bach to Händel, Dean Martin to Boney M, as well as Christmas Eve at local concert venue Paradiso, these concerts will bring the essence of the season to a musical extravaganza for both ears and eyes! For our personal recommendations of such concerts, click here to read our classical Christmas events page!
Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas)
An annually celebrated holiday, the festivities actually start on the first Saturday after November the 11th. The tale told is that Sinterklaas, who lives in Madrid, Spain, arrives in great splendour on a steamship right at the start of the festive season. In Amsterdam, this is celebrated locally in forms of street parades, church bells ringing and parties for children.
On the eve of the 5th of December, Sinterklaas journeys around the whole of the Netherlands and visits or the boys and girls, leaving small treats and gifts for them to enjoy. Children in the Netherlands leave their shoes filled with hay, carrots and sugar for Sinterklaas’s horse, Americo, to enjoy! At Yays, we carry on with this tradition and invite all our residents with children to leave their shoes ready for Sinterklaas on the 5th of December, at the foot of the reception desk (our chimney’s don’t seem to be wide enough for Piet) with their notes and gifts, and who knows… Sinterklaas may leave you a treat!
Christmas day and second Christmas day
Christmas day, the 25th of December, is known as Eerste Kerstdag and although gift giving takes place, this day is msotly for church services, quiet Christmas concerts, and traditional family meals and time together. Santa Claus (Kerstman – not to be confused with Sinterklaas!), comes over from Finland on Christmas Eve and delivers small gifts to all children as well as adults.
And the festivities don’t stop there! As known traditionally as Boxing Day in the UK, the Dutch have Tweede Kerstdag (Second Christmas day), when people go and visit their relatives, go shopping or spend the afternoon at the ice rink with some hot chocolate or mulled wine.
The Dutch are passionate about ice-skating, and every winter, outdoor ice rinks appear in each neighbourhood - complete with skate rental, music and refreshments. In the various neighbourhoods, activities and ice-skating are organised for the little ones, for example at Café Mads, near Yays Zoutkeetsgracht. After whizzing around on the ice, warm up with a hot chocolate, a plate of poffertjes (mini pancakes), or a hearty pea soup. For more information on skating venues in Amsterdam, head over to our events page, listing all ice skating locations for this festive season (maybe it's even possible to skate on the canals)!
Speak to your concierge about what other festivities are happening in your Yays neighbourhood during this festive season! Happy holidays from the Yays family!
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