Easter in Holland

Ulrike Grafberger, Thursday, March 21, 2013

I've been asking around: Marielle is inviting friends and family over for an Easter brunch. Susan's going to church first, then to the Easter market with the whole family. Jaap's going to listen to the St Matthew Passion and Janneke's looking forward to a trip to the furniture shopping mall. Just a minute – looking forward to what?

Spending Easter among armchairs and sofas

Spending Easter Monday in a furniture shop is actually a tradition in Holland. Or rather, in what is known as a “Meubelboulevard”, or furniture shopping mall. There is a furniture shopping mall, for instance, in Groningen. It combines 32 furniture shops under one roof: bed shops, kitchen shops, a garden centre, furnishing companies – everything anyone needs for their house or apartment. And a glance at the website shows that on Easter Monday, the furniture shopping mall is even holding a "Woonshow" (Lifestyle show) day, open from 10 am until 5 pm. The Alexandrium furniture shopping mall in Rotterdam will attract around 15,000 visitors on an Easter Monday. Why is that? Do bedside cabinets suddenly fall apart in the Spring, are mattresses no longer well sprung, do red wine stains suddenly mark that white sofa?

The furniture shopping craze at Easter has been going on since the 1980s. Because people have time on Easter Monday and often have nothing better to do (it's all over and done with on Easter Sunday), they call into a furniture shop. Ikea & Co. also lure customers into their stores on Easter Monday with irresistible promotions. The unintentional side effect, however, is traffic flow regulation, crowds and queues. So perhaps it's better to stay at home and "click eggs"?

Eitje tik (Egg-clicking)

Banging hard-boiled eggs against each another is a typically Dutch custom. And this is what happens: two people each take a hard-boiled egg and hit the pointed ends against each other. Whoever's egg cracks first has lost. This Easter custom is so widespread that there are even tips on how to win circulating on the Internet, such as: "move very quickly towards your opponent, but then stop so that at the very last moment, your opponent's egg hits your egg with its full force. There's a good chance your opponent's egg will break."

According to the Easter statistics provided by the Dutch Boulevard Telegraaf newspaper, 92 per cent of Dutch Easter eggs "click". Around 40 per cent of the Dutch go on Easter egg hunts. However, the Dutch don't appear to take actually finding the eggs so seriously: around a third of those who go on the hunt don't retrieve all the hidden eggs. So if there's a place in your house or garden that smells of rotten eggs in the summer, it could be a leftover from Easter.

Dutch Easter records

In Holland, too  – particularly in the East and North – the tradition of the Easter eve bonfire is a familiar one. They've even set a major record: the hamlet of Espelo with around 370 residents, located in the Dutch province of Overijssel, had the biggest Easter eve bonfire in the world in 2012. According to the Guinness Book of Records, it was 45.98 metres high.

There's also an entirely different record-breaking tradition: the tradition of the Passions. In no other country in the world is the St Matthew Passion as popular as it is in Holland. And thousands of the Dutch go on pilgrimage at Easter to churches and concert halls to follow in music the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Young people find this long-standing tradition less attractive. They prefer to go the mega Easter concert called "Paaspop" (Easter pop) in North Brabant. This doesn't last just three hours, like the St Matthew Passion, but three whole days. And here, too, a new record has been set: this Easter event attracted 51,000 visitors last year.