Will the Netherlands see a white Christmas or Elfstedentocht this winter?

Will the Netherlands see a white Christmas or Elfstedentocht this winter?

After was has been - and continues to be - an increasingly unusual year (to say the least), many people are looking to the winter and crossing their fingers for a magical white Christmas. But are they wasting their time hoping? With the notoriously unpredictable Dutch weather, what are the chances that the Netherlands will be white this holiday season?

Chances of a white Christmas in the Netherlands?

As soon as everyone starts to get excited about Christmas, you can usually bank on the topic of the ever-elusive white Christmas being raised. 2020 has been chock-a-block full of the unexpected, so will the Netherlands be lucky enough to experience a White Christmas this year, when perhaps people need it more than ever before?

The official definition of a white Christmas in the Netherlands is when there is an uninterrupted covering of snow in De Bilt (a town near Utrecht and home to the Dutch weather institute) on both Christmas and Boxing Day. Since records began in 1903, the Netherlands has only seen eight white Christmasses, the last of which was in 2010. 

Sad news though: it might be better not to get your hopes up this year. notes that the weather predictions are not looking good, and Christmas is expected to be mild and dry this year. Their meteorologists expect there is only an 8 percent chance of a white Christmas in De Bilt. 

But! It’s still early, and there’s plenty of time for the weather to change. The weather this autumn has (so far) been fairly mild, but that is set to change from Friday as the chance of frost increases and the Netherlands is expected to see the first official frost of the Autumn over the weekend or early next week at the latest.

Chances of an elfstedentocht

Living in the Netherlands, it’s hard to ignore the Dutch love for ice skating, and their obsession with the mysterious elfstedentocht (literal translation: the 11 city tour). The elfstedentocht has only occurred 15 times in the last 110 years, with the most recent one taking place in January 1997. The tour sees skaters travelling 199 kilometres across frozen canals, lakes, and rivers (on natuurijs, “natural ice”) through 11 towns in Friesland. 

The ice has to be at least 15 centimetres thick for it to be safe enough for the race to take place. Global warming means the chance of it being able to happen are decreasing every year - but even sadder news for avid skaters this winter is that, even if the weather conditions are perfect, the elfstedentocht will not be taking place. 

The Royal Association of the Friesche Eleven Cities has stated that, due to the coronavirus measures put in place by the Dutch government, and the 1,5-metre distance rule, it would not be safe or sensible to allow the race to go ahead. The chairman of the association notes the likelihood of the coronavirus situation improving over the coming months is slim - plus, there’s no sign of the much-needed ice.

Victoria Séveno


Victoria Séveno

Victoria grew up in Amsterdam, before moving to the UK to study English and Related Literature at the University of York and completing her NCTJ course at the Press Association...

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