How the Dutch share good news
“Hoera, een jongen!” (hurray, it is a boy), say the blue flags that are hanging in the front garden of a house. Good news is meant to be shared and there are various ways of doing so. Still, I bet that nothing beats the striking ways of how the Dutch spread good news.
The birth of a baby in a Dutch neighbourhood is something that does not go unnoticed. This piece of good news is communicated to the world by placing a board in the front garden that has an animated animal or a children’s book hero like Winnie the Pooh painted on it, along with the name of the baby. This is the Dutch way of letting the world know about the new arrival.
If you are familiar with the family, then you will also receive a birth card, with the details of the baby’s name, weight and length at birth! After you have received these intimate details about the baby, you can make an appointment to go visit and admire the tiny new member of the house.
"Beschuit met Muisjes®"
To celebrate this new arrival, “beschuit met Muisjes®” will be served. These are round, light toasts, or rusks, spread with butter and sprinkled with either blue and white or pink and white sugar-coated anise sprinkles, depending on the gender of the baby. As tradition has it, this manner of celebrating the birth with a treat, usually something sweet, has existed since the middle ages.
Back then, birthing was a highly risky affair and to celebrate the survival of both mother and child, children in the neighbour were treated to something sweet. Much later, sugar-coated anise was used for the occasion.
National flag and school bag
Around the end of June, just before the summer vacation, you will notice a lot of Dutch flags accompanied by a school bag, placed prominently on a flag post. This is how the Dutch share the good news that a child in that house has graduated! Note, this tradition only applies to high school graduation.
“I thought they were suddenly disrespecting their national flag!”, was the astonished remark of a person who was unaware of this tradition.
Well, some Dutch people might say that this is not far from the truth. In fact, in the seventies, there was some discussion regarding this particular aspect of this tradition. For some, it did feel like disrespect, but there were others who regarded this as an innocent tradition where proud parents were trying to let the world know about the achievement of their child.
As for the school bag? This is usually the very same bag that was used by the child to carry their books to school! If you happen to bump into the proud members of the household, do congratulate them. After all, it is good news that should be celebrated!
Sara or Abraham
Have you ever noticed a huge inflated doll representing an old woman or man in a family’s front garden? If you have, you just saw Sara or Abraham, as they are referred to in the Netherlands.
This is the Dutch way of letting the neighbourhood know that someone in the household has turned the magical age of fifty. Generally, these dolls are placed there by friends, family or neighbours as a joke.
Have you come across these ways of celebrating? What do you think of them? Let us know in the comments!
Pictures: ©Kirtika van Hunen
*Muisjes® is a registered trademark of Koninklijke De Ruijter B.V.