The most important Dutch custom

Director Ineke Strouken of the Dutch Centre for Folk Culture (Nederlands Centrum voor Volkskunde) says Dutch people regard the celebration of Sinterklaas (St Nicholas) as the most important Dutch tradition. Ms Strouken comes to this conclusion in her book Dit zijn wij (This is who we are) which will be officially presented in Utrecht on Friday.

More than 10,000 people submitted their top ten favourite traditions to Ms Strouken. The undisputed number one is followed by decorating the Christmas tree. Queens Day came third, deep-fried doughnut balls (oliebollen) and other New Year’s customs fourth, and Easter came fifth.
Ineke Strouken says the top 100 favourite customs in her book represent a transitional period. “You can see some traditions are dying out, while others are being created. Going to church is at number 29. People apparently still believe they should attend church, but I think it will no longer be on the list in 25 years. A new tradition is the Sugar Feast at the end of the Ramadan, in 14th position."
Ms Strouken said it wouldn’t hurt if the Dutch took a little more pride in their traditions. “Other countries actively promote their traditions. Just look at how many traditional cookbooks you find in Brittany. Many Dutch people only know about windmills, tulips and wooden shoes, but we have a wealth of traditions. We have an innate fear of pride turning into nationalism, but you can feel proud without feeling superior to others.”
Sinterklaas will be present in Utrecht to accept the first copy of Ms Strouken’s book, in a clear deviation from the time-honoured tradition to arrive in the Netherlands only after Martinmas (11 November).
And I never missed Sinterklaas since I left the Netherlands a long time ago...


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