It never ceases to boggle my mind that the vast majority of holidays in the Netherlands are religious days. Not because there’s anything wrong with religion mind you. No, my confusion stems from the fact that the Dutch are distinctly not religious. According to CBS (the Dutch statistics bureau, not the television station), less than 50% of the Dutch population adhere to a religion.
What else boggles my mind? The Dutch have no idea what most of these holidays are about. This past Monday was Easter Monday – a holiday here in the Netherlands. While the Wikipedia page explaining Easter Monday in English is extensive, the Dutch page states only the following:
Easter Monday or 2nd Easter Day is the day after Easter and is a holiday in a number of primarily Christian countries.
That’s it. C’est tout! Well, no wonder no one has a clue what the day signifies.
Easter Monday means a day off for most people. Nothing more. Nothing less. You’ll find the beaches packed, the dunes full of walkers out for a stroll, and bike paths overflowing with bikers out for a nice ride. In case you’re wondering, me, the hubby, and the dog were part of the crowds of walkers and bikers. I have the sunburn to prove it!
The stores don’t even bother to close. Years ago, the only shops open on Easter Monday were furniture stores like Ikea. (Expert tip: Do NOT go to Ikea on Easter Monday. Just don’t do it!) Now, all of the shops in the city center are open. For many, you wouldn’t have even known it was a holiday. Unless you need to buy bread. Then, you’re in trouble as grocery stores were one of the few stores that were closed.
So, why has the Netherlands continued to maintain Christian holidays? There are plenty of other days in the year, which could be holidays. Liberation Day on May 5th commemorates the day most of the Netherlands was liberated from the Nazis. (I say most as Haarlem wasn’t liberated until May 8th and I’m just a tiny bit anal about details.) But Liberation Day is only a holiday once every five years. Which is just weird and kind of sad.
What do you say? Who’s ready to start a movement for secular holidays?