From Gouda by candlelight to a Christmas Carol – a round-up of holiday family fun

From Gouda by candlelight to a Christmas Carol – a round-up of holiday family fun

The school holidays are finally coming up! Esther O'Toole has a run down of special Christmas events and activities, for young and old, up and down the country, traditional and alternative; starting on December 15. Countrywide: winter circuses A trip to the circus is a popular Dutch tradition at Christmas. You will find Christmas Circuses all over: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Haarlem, Nijmegen, Sittard…Eindhoven's will be in the Park Theater and offers lots of extra activities for kids throughout the building, so you can really make a day of it. Website Amsterdam: Kerstspel, Muziekgebouw aan 't IJ There are more than 10 special events going on at the Muziekgebouw this holiday season. Including a new tradition of their own making - Kerstspel. A modern Christmas concert to inspire your littlens as they watch performers as young as 4 years old perform alongside the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. Website Amsterdam: The Christmas Show, Ziggo Dome It wouldn't be the season of 'goodwill to all men' if there wasn't a performance inspired by A Christmas Carol going on somewhere. If you're looking for a new take on an old tale then you can head to the Ziggo Dome on December 23 and 24 for the annual song and dance extravaganza, which this year is based on the Dickens classic and features lot of Dutch celebrities. Website More on celebrating the holiday season in Amsterdam Arnhem: Open Air museum It may be chilly, but there is still plenty of wintertime fun to be had outside. At the open air museum in Arnhem there will be skating, sledging and you can bake your own bread over an open fire. If the weather gets really inclement you can always retreat to the 'play shed' for shed-loads of good old-fashioned family games. Website Gouda: Candle Night Gouda may be best known for its cheese but their annual Kaarsjesavond (Candle Night) deserves to be well known too. This year on December 15th all electric lights will be turned off, and the festivities around the town Christmas tree (music & singing, food and theatre) will all take place by candlelight. Website Maastricht: Magical Maastricht, Het Vrijhof There are Christmas markets all around the country but Maastricht's has been completely revamped for 2017 to be bigger and better than ever. Their covered ice rink even has disco skating! Website Maastricht: The Christmas Elf Mystery (4-10), departs from Minister Goeman Borgesius Plantsoen Here's one for those bilingual families. The Christmas Elf Mystery is an underground treasure hunt in the tunnels under the city! Help Father Christmas find the key to the sleigh that his trickster elf has hidden. December 23 at 16:00, 17:00 and 18:00. Don't forget your torch! Website Nijmegen: Festival of Light Explore the Christmas story at the Museum Park Orientalis, dress up as a shepherd, take a donkey for a walk and listen to storytellers while stuffing yourself with oliebollen. Different activities are going on throughout the park, both indoors and out. From December 16. Website Oud Kampen: Open air theatre festival A cheap and cheerful day out can be had on December 17 and 18, as the streets of Oud Kampen fill up with theatre activities for young and old. Entry is just €2 per person, a bargain! From 16.00 hours. Website Rotterdam: Pillow Party, Ahoy If the teens are getting stir crazy and are glued to their tablets, why not take them down to the Ahoy and reintroduce them to the charitable spirit of Christmas while letting them go nuts at Rotterdam's annual Pillow Party? Proceeds from the giant pillow fight go to help Dutch children living in poverty celebrate their birthdays. December 15, from 20.30, pillows provided! Website More on celebrating Christmas in Rotterdam The Hague: Winter Wondertales (5+), Paradise Theatre Alongside their own production of the Charles Dickens story, performed by Ashley Ramsden, English Language theatre company STET has a new show to warm little hearts this year. Storyteller Caja will take you all on a magical journey with her repertoire of original short stories. December 16 and 17. Website The Hague: New Year's Dive - Scheveningen beach The crazy antics of a few swimmers has grown into a real tradition of taking a 'penguin dive' on New Year's Day. There are now 60 locations around the country where you can join in but the original Scheveningen dip is still the biggest, with an expected 10,000 people taking the plunge at noon on January 1 2018. Website The Hague: The Pier If you'd rather enjoy the New Year's dive at a warm and comfortable distance, then you can stay on the pier! Sup on something tasty from the artisanal food trucks, hit the shops or take a turn on the ferris wheel or the zip wire! Website More on celebrating the holiday season in The Hague Utrecht: My First Festival, Tivoli Vredenburg There's an eclectic musical offering to be found at this festival for kids, and parents. From pop to Prokofiev there´s something to delight everyone with performances and workshops throughout the day. December 29, family tickets available. Website  More >

Dutch cats - here's nine things to know

The Dutch love their cats – and here’s the proof They peer down at you from the windows of canal houses and slink past your legs while you’re hanging out in cafes. Indeed, cats definitely seem to be everywhere in the Netherlands. According to one estimate, there’s over 2.8 million of them currently living in the country. Brandon Hartley has nine key facts about Dutch cats Cats in the Kunsthal You can sink your claws into an exposition devoted entirely to cats at Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum, until January 14, 2018. ‘Cat Love: Nine Lives in the Arts’ takes a look at how felines have been depicted in art from the mid-19th century to modern times. Along with paintings by Henriëtte Ronner-Knip and Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen and work by contemporary artists including David Shrigley and Wallasse Ting, the show includes tributes to international ‘cat sensations’ like Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub. There’s also an interactive exhibit that allows visitors to experience what it’s like to be a feline in the Netherlands. What...  More >

FvD has 'damaging' focus on race

Forum voor Democratie’s focus on race is damaging, says D66 MP D66 MP Jan Paternotte calls the Forum voor Democratie's focus on race 'damaging' and challenges its MPs to face opposition where it can be heard: in a public debate in parliament. ‘Hiddema didn’t say anything wrong, silly Jan Paternotte’. That is how columnist Theodor Holman ended a passionate defence of Forum voor Democratie MP Theo Hiddema in his column in the Parool. This was the same Hiddema who, during a parliamentary debate spoke of a ‘proud, noble negro’ who, he said, would not benefit from a law on incitement of hatred against groups. Holman's comment came only weeks after a radio broadcast in which Hiddema said ‘race mixing’ would be the best way to go for Dutch Moroccans, seeing how reluctant they are to integrate. On Twitter I called Hiddema’s comments an example of his party’s increasingly sickening focus on race. Holman explained that his generation – and Hiddema’s – use the term ‘negroes’ and that to him the word was much less denigrating...  More >

Key facts about top-up health insurance

Supplementary health insurance: what is it and do you need it? Supplementary health insurance policies have been in the news a lot this month, with the central Dutch bank suggesting they could disappear in the future. So what's all the fuss about? Here's a handy guide to what supplementary health insurance policies cover, how they work and whether or not you need one in 2018. What should you look out for when assessing supplementary health policies? Cover The basic health insurance (basisverzekering) is the compulsory part of Dutch health insurance. It covers essential medical healthcare, such as visits to your GP, hospital treatments, emergency medical care and (some) medication. There may be treatment you might want but that is not covered by the basic health policy. Here is a list: Physiotherapy (for non-chronic conditions) Dental care (above 18 years of age) Alternative medicine Orthodontics for children and adults Glasses (or lenses) Podotherapy This is where a supplemental insurance comes in. These optional...  More >

Podcast: The Grinch Stole My Oliebollen

DutchNews podcast – The Grinch Stole My Oliebollen Edition – Week 49 There's not much Christmas cheer in our last podcast of the year, as the Dutch government joins the chorus of disapproval against Donald Trump's latest diplomatic intervention, texting while cycling is officially frowned on, a radio station is pilloried for a sexist prank and Spain comes under fire for its treatment of Morgan the orca. Andre Rieu makes a surprise guest appearance in our sports news, while our end-of-year discussion looks at some of the top 2000 reasons to celebrate Christmas in the Netherlands. Click here to see what you can win in our great Christmas giveaway Top story Dutch government criticises 'counterproductive' Trump statement on Jerusalem News Radio presenter apologises to singer after nude prank sparks backlash Primary school teachers to strike again on December 12 Dutch government pledges to outlaw texting while cycling Spanish aquarium accused of using Morgan the rescued orca for breeding Sport Feyenoord and Vitesse avoid...  More >

'The red light district is beautiful'

‘The red light district is one of the most beautiful parts of Amsterdam’ Travel blogger, museum guide and Dutch cheese addict Tea Gudek Šnajdar from Haarlem emigrated from Croatia in 2013 in search of adventure. At work or at play, there is nowhere she’s rather be than at Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum, marvelling at the Golden Age masterpieces. How did you end up in the Netherlands? My husband and I wanted to go somewhere abroad, and we had this idea while we were both still studying to go somewhere outside Croatia and get an international experience. When we graduated, we said let’s both look for jobs somewhere in Europe. We actually knew very little about the Netherlands before we came, but then my husband got an interview, and then a job offer, and within a month, we were in Amsterdam! It was really fast. How do you describe yourself - an expat, lovepat, immigrant, international etc I would say a little bit of all of them. When I came here I saw myself more as a combination of lovepat and immigrant, but then, today, I think this image of myself...  More >

Great new books to give away

Books, clocks and tulips: we’ve got some great gifts to give away December is a time of giving and that's just what we are doing this month at We've got some great gifts to give away to several lucky readers. NLXL by Karel Tomei The Netherlands might like to consider itself a small country - a kleine kikkerlandje, as the Dutch are so fond of saying - but this is one mighty big book. Karel Tomei's NLXL weighs in at a whopping 3.5 kilos but is such a joy to look at that you will forget the weight on your knees. The book draws on the tradition of birds eye view paintings in which the world is captured from the skies: the intricate patterns of reclaimed land crisscrossed by ditches, the contrast between bulb fields and a golf course, great swathes of sand with a city in the distance, a drone's view of a busy cafe terrace, the intricate carvings on the roof of a cathedral. But it's the landscape that really rules NLXL - the Netherlands might be oh so very flat, but it still has amazing variation in its countryside - from the seaside...  More >

Podcast: The Vial of Fake News Edition

DutchNews podcast – The Poison Chalice of Fake News Edition – Week 48 In this week's podcast we tackle the biggest, blackest hot potato of our times - when and how will the Zwarte Piet debate end? It's been a week of bitterness and recriminations, with a chaotic end to the Yugoslavia tribunals in The Hague and the Dutch government facing accusations of fitting up an airline pilot who spent eight years in an Argentinian jail before being cleared this week of throwing dissidents out of planes in the 1970s. We also pick our favourites from the shortlist for Dutch Word of the Year and look at Ajax's attempts to export their renowned academy system to China – just as Dutch football clubs plunge in the European pecking order. Top story Genocide general smuggles poison vial into The Hague war crimes tribunal News Police trace woman who abandoned boy at Amsterdam Central Station Government urged to improve screening of gay and Christian asylum seekers Anti-Muslim video retweeted by Donald Trump is fake news Pilot Julio Poch plans to sue...  More >

12 great things to do in December

Cats, kings and the American dream: 12 great things to do in December Not everything on the calendar for December is about Sinterklaas and Santa Claus but inevitably lots of events at this time of year are Christmas-themed.  We've got top notch theatre, ice sculptures, cat karaoke and the American dream in our latest listing. Savour some savoir-faire If you haven't bought a single present yet and are not short of a euro or two why not visit the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam for inspiration. Meesterlijk is a three day extravaganza of 'style, specialisms and savoir-faire'. This is an event all about designer goods and handcrafted stuff. It's also a 'recyclable total concept' which we think might be a good thing. December 1,2,3. Website Slide on the ice Scheveningen is not only the scene of the traditonal new year's plunge (see further down) it also has another icy surprise in store: the Ice EXPO, featuring a multitude of ice sculptures inspired by Scheveningen's glorious past as a watering hole for the Den Haag posh and the not so posh. Next door...  More >

Gender-neutral marketing hits Holland

No more Hema and Shema: Gender-neutral marketing hits the Netherlands This is your last weekend to pack in the pre-Sinterklaas shopping. So will it be pink for the girls and blue for the boys? Gender-neutral marketing has finally arrived in the Netherlands but, as Deborah Nicholls-Lee reports, not everyone is happy. In June 2015, following a particularly depressing visit to toy store Bart Smit - whose signage suggested that my five-year-old daughter had no business looking at toys that had to do with engineering, natural history or science – I poked my head above the Twitter parapet and tweeted my frustration. The backlash was unanticipated: I was a drama queen; a ghastly feminist; I was lying. I concluded that the Netherlands was simply not ready to engage in this particular conversation and left it well alone. Nevertheless, I was bemused. Toys R Us in Sweden went gender-neutral in 2013 and Australia launched the No Gender December campaign in 2014, urging people to ‘Buy gifts not stereotypes’. The UK-based campaign Let Toys Be Toys reported...  More >

British ambassador reassures Brits in NL

‘We want British citizens in NL to continue to live as they do now’ With European leaders due to meet in Brussels next month, the time is right to press on with negotiations on the UK's withdrawal from the European Union, says  ambassador Peter Wilson says in an open letter to British nationals in the Netherlands. On 14 and 15 December the leaders of the European Union member states will meet in Brussels for the December gathering of the European Council.  The council comes together after months of talks which have generated a huge amount of media reporting and comment.  It is our firm belief that the time to move on to the next phase of negotiations is now. I have met many British nationals across the Netherlands during our open forums, and I know that they are uncertain and worried about the consequences of the UK’s departure from the European Union. I want to be able to offer as much certainty as possible both to British nationals and to businesses here in the Netherlands. For that reason it is essential that we get on with discussing...  More >