An expat guide to celebrating Halloween in the Netherlands
October has arrived, the nights are creeping in, and all of a sudden sparkly pumpkins and witches' hats are popping up in shops. All these signs point to just one thing: Halloween is right around the corner!
Are you a new arrival, or someone who’s lived here a while but is looking to find out more about Halloween celebrations in the Netherlands? Well, worry not! We’re here to answer all your Halloween-related questions in our guide to celebrating this spooky holiday right here in the Lowlands.
Everything you need to know about Halloween 2023
Just can’t wait for the big day? Here’s everything you need to know about Halloween 2023.
When is Halloween in the Netherlands?
Halloween is celebrated annually on October 31. This year, Halloween falls on Tuesday, October 31.
What is Halloween?
Halloween is a holiday celebrated every autumn. These days, the holiday is generally celebrated by people getting dressed up in (scary) costumes and getting together with friends. Children also enjoy getting into costumes, going door-to-door trick-or-treating with friends or family members and receiving sweets from other people living in their neighbourhood.
The history of Halloween
Halloween as we know it today has its origins in a number of different celebrations and festivals. Some believe its roots date all the way back to the pre-Christian holiday of Samhain, which was celebrated in early Medieval Britain and Ireland, fell around November 1, and celebrated the start of a new year. During Samhain, it was believed that the souls of those who had died returned to the land of the living to visit their homes, and people sometimes wore masks as a disguise to avoid being recognised by ghosts and other unfriendly spirits.
It is more widely believed that Halloween developed from medieval Christian holidays and feasts celebrating the dead, such as All Saints’ Day on November 1 and All Souls’ Day on November 2. The evening ahead of All Saints’ Day became a holy or hallowed eve (All Hallows’ Eve), and so was eventually contracted to Halloween.
These days, Halloween is largely considered an American holiday, although in the 1800s its celebration was regularly forbidden in many American communities, which instead developed harvest festivals that incorporated aspects of Halloween. When large numbers of specifically Irish immigrants travelled to the US in the mid-19th century, they took their Halloween traditions with them. Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the holiday became extremely popular in the United States, especially among children.
Do they celebrate Halloween in the Netherlands?
Halloween is a relatively new celebration in the Netherlands, and has likely seen its popularity grow significantly in recent years thanks to the large number of expats and internationals that have made the country home but are still keen to celebrate their favourite spooky holiday.
While there are no Dutch Halloween traditions, people in the Netherlands certainly do take the time to celebrate on October 31 by getting dressed up, going out with friends, or hosting a Halloween-themed get-together at their home, complete with scary movies, chillingly catchy tunes, and some terrifyingly tasty snacks.
If your family is hoping to engage in some trick-or-treating this October 31, consider yourself warned: while an increasing number of Dutch adults and teenagers use the holiday as an excuse to have some fun, they might not be prepared (or willing) to hand out candy. If you’re in one of the major Dutch cities with bigger international communities, your odds of having a successful evening will likely be better, but it might be a good idea to plan out a route beforehand with your fellow expat parents or your neighbours.
Is Halloween a Dutch public holiday?
While many in the Netherlands do celebrate Halloween, sadly it isn’t recognised as an official Dutch holiday.
What is the Dutch version of Halloween?
While Halloween is a newer addition to the Dutch holiday calendar, the more traditional wintertime sweet-giving festivity is St-Maarten, which takes place annually on November 11. On Sint-Maarten, groups of children go door-to-door singing special songs, armed with homemade paper lanterns. In exchange for their beautiful singing, the children receive sweets or even money.
What is Halloween called in the Netherlands?
This is an exceptionally good question, but the answer is extremely simple. Halloween in Dutch is, well, Halloween. An easy one to remember, regardless of how many hours of Dutch lessons you’ve completed!
How to celebrate Halloween the Dutch way
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran looking for inspiration or a Halloween virgin who knows absolutely nothing about the spooky holiday, here’s everything you need to know about how to celebrate Halloween the Dutch way.
Famous Halloween events and parties in the Netherlands
There are various Halloween events, parties and festivals that take place across the Netherlands every October, and they cater to just about all age groups and interests. Here’s a selection of some of the most famous and popular Dutch Halloween events.
Halloween Fright Nights and Spooky Days at Walibi
This is undoubtedly one of the most successful Halloween events. Taking place at a theme park throughout the month of October, the Walibi Fright Nights and Spooky Days offer big scares, thrilling rides, and lots of fun for Halloween fans of all ages.
Amsterdam Halloween at WesterUnie
This is certainly one for the older fans, and every year WesterUnie - a nightclub in Amsterdam - hosts a themed club night that they advertise as the biggest Halloween party in the Dutch capital. Those working and attending the event go all out with their costumes, ensuring that it’ll be a night out you’ll never forget (no matter how many beers you drink).
Crazy Sexy Cool Halloween
Another popular event amongst adults who just can’t get enough of the spooky holiday is Crazy Sexy Cool Halloween in Rotterdam. No costume is too wild or too racy here. Anything goes, so get ready for big costumes and even bigger scares!
Popular Halloween outfits and where to buy them in the Netherlands
Putting together the perfect Halloween outfit is a pretty important part of doing Halloween right. Seeing as Halloween isn’t such a big deal in the Netherlands, you might be wondering where exactly you’ll be able to get your hands on the accessories, make-up, and clothing items you’ll need to create your costume - but don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
Buying Halloween costumes, make-up and decorations in the Netherlands
There are plenty of costume and party shops across the Netherlands that’ll help you find everything you need to put your outfit together, and it’s getting easier and easier to find Halloween decorations at shops in the Netherlands. Here’s a list of shops worth checking out if you’re needing to stock up on supplies ahead of October 31.
Party and costume shops in Amsterdam:
- Witbaard Feestartikelen, Ferdinand Bolstraat 22
- B&B Feestartikelen, Kinkerstraat 185
- Louis Wittenburg, Raadhuisstraat 16
Party and costume shops in The Hague:
- Bokstijn Feestartikelen, Weimarstraat 187
- Zorg voor Party, Laan van Nieuw Oost-Indië 104
- SoLow, Spuistraat 19
Party and costume shops in Rotterdam:
- Feestwinkel Noord, Noordmolenstraat 21b
- Koorn & Co Feestartikelen, Motorstraat 19
- SoLow, Hoogstraat 171
Party and costume shops in Utrecht:
- Feestwinkel Witbaard Utrecht, St Jacobsstraat 299
- De Utrechtse Feestwinkel, Oranjerivierdreef 2
- SoLow XXL, Oudegracht 89
Party and costume shops in Eindhoven:
- 'T Snabbeltje, Grote Berg 123
- SoLow XXL, Rechtestraat 29
- De Gestelse Feestwinkel, Hoogstraat 212
Halloween costume ideas
Still have absolutely no idea what you’ll be going as this Halloween? Why not try your hand at one of these classic costumes that are pretty popular in the Netherlands:
- Creepy clown
- Screaming ghost / Grim reaper
Dutch horror films and Halloween films to watch this October
If you want to fully immerse yourself in Dutch culture this Halloween, you could try getting into the spooky spirit by watching a Dutch horror film:
- De Lift (1983), Dick Maas
- Sneekweek (2016), Martijn Heijne and Alex van Galen
- De Poel (2014), Chris W. Mitchell and Gijs Scholten van Aschat
Not so confident in your Dutch skills? Then go for one of these English-language Halloween-themed films that are popular amongst Dutch audiences:
- Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Henry Selick, Tim Burton, Michael McDowell and Caroline Thompson
- Hocus Pocus (1993), Kenny Ortega, David Kirschner, Mick Garris and Neil Cuthbert
- Donnie Darko (2001), Richard Kelly
- Halloween (1978), John Carpenter and Debra Hill
If you consider yourself a true scary movie fan and think big scares deserve to be seen on the big screen, check out the showings at your local cinema - a number across the Netherlands will host special screenings in the run-up to Halloween, and they’ll likely also be showing several newly-released horror films.
Many will likely tell you that any holiday is merely an excuse to gorge yourself on delicious food. Want to get into the festive spirit this Halloween? Why not try out one of these recipes for tasty Halloween-themed treats, and share them with your friends, family, or trick-or-treaters (or keep them for yourself, we won’t judge!).
Spooky Halloween cupcakes
It is absolutely possible for your Halloween snacks to be creepy and cute - and delicious of course! Get on theme and try out some of your icing skills by having a go at these ideas for Halloween cupcakes.
Easy Halloween snacks that will impress your guests
Not quite sure you’re up to putting your baking chops to the test? Not to worry! These five easy recipes for snacks will keep your belly filled and your guests impressed this Halloween.
Have a frighteningly good Halloween night!
There you have it: absolutely everything you could possibly need to know about Halloween and how you can celebrate it in the Netherlands. What have you got planned for this Halloween? Share your plans in the comments below - and remember to have a spooktacular time!