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Dutch Christmas Songs

In the Netherlands Christmas started, just like everywhere else in the world, as a Christian holiday. The Netherlands is one of the few countries in the world that officially has a 1st and 2nd Christmas day (the 25th and 26th of December). This started in 813 ACE when the Catholic Church decided that Christmas should last four day and that working on these days, unless absolutely necessary would bring bad luck. So the workers had four days off of work. But with time the industry found this too many free days so with time the government decreased the number of Christmas days. In 1773 there were just two days left and it remained that way.

With the years Christmas transformed from a religious holiday to a day you would like to spend with family and having dinner with them. In a lot of countries it's tradition that Santa brings gifts under the Christmas tree. Although the Dutch do get Christmas trees, Christmas isn't seen as a gift giving holiday in the Netherlands. This because the Dutch already have 'Sinterklaas' on December 5th. Sinterklaas is like the Dutch version of Santa, only he rides a white horse, there is no Christmas tree involved and instead of getting little presents in a sock on the fireplace, you get them in your shoe near the fireplace. So it would be too much to have gifts on Sinterklaas and Christmas. So mostly there are no presents at Christmas. Although nowadays Christmas is getting more popular among the Dutch, so some people decide to do presents at Christmas instead of on Sinterklaas.

And music is of course an important part of this tradition. The songs started out as Christian songs that were sung at mass. But as the holiday changed the role of music changed with it. Christmas songs became part of the Christmas spirit that people love so much. There are some traditional Dutch Christmas songs that you could sing sitting around the Christmas tree, like the Dutch version of silent night. But nowadays modern American Christmas songs like the ones from Wham and Mariah Carey are just as well known.

A non Christian Christmas song would be 'oh denneboom, oh denneboom' which is originally a German Christmas song, but is now translated in Dutch. It's a song that pretty much all Dutch people know, Christian or not.

O denneboom, o denneboom, O pine tree, o pine tree

Wat zijn uw takken wonderschoon What are your branches wonderful

Ik heb u laatst in 't bos zien staan, I've seen you last time in the forest.

Toen zaten er geen kaarsjes aan. When there were no candles lit.

O denneboom, o denneboom, O pine tree, o pine tree

Wat zijn uw takken wonderschoon. What are your branches wonderful.

And a song to sing when Christmas finally has arrived:

Kerstfeest is gekomen, kaarsjes in de bomen
Kaarsjes hier en overal die ik strakjes branden zal
Met een vuurtje bij de pit, pas op dat je stilletjes zit
Want wanneer je zucht of fluit, blaas je…ffft…de kaarsjes uit

Christmas has come, candles is all the trees

Candles here and everywhere which I will light soon

With a fire near the wick, make sure you sit still

Because when you whistle or sight…..ffft….you blow the candle out

Or another example of a general Christmas song about wishing that Christmas never ends:

Alle slingers alle ballen zijn uit de boom All decorations are from the tree
En vanaf vandaag gaan we gewoon weer And today we will go back
Gewoon doen go back to acting normal
Ik kijk iedere keer Every time I look
Maar ik vindt toch geen nootjes meer But I don't find any nuts

Alle dagen dennengeur Every day this pine scent
En een hartje op de deur And a heart on the door
Lichtjes in het vensterglas lights in the window
Ik wou dat het altijd Kerstmis was I wish it could always be Christmas
Ik wou dat het altijd Kerstmis was I wish it could always be Christmas

But there is also an example of a more Christian Christmas song in Dutch:

Heb je 't al gehoord? Luid de klok, luid de klok
Heb je 't al gehoord? Luid de klok, luid de klok
't Kerstfeest is nu begonnen
Steek alle kaarsjes aan
't Kindeke werd geboren
In een stal hier ver vandaan
Vrede op aarde, licht overal
Laat de trompetten schallen
Stop alle ruzies, stop al het kwaad
Even vergeten die narigheid en haat
Heb je 't al gehoord? Luid de klok, luid de klok
Heb je 't al gehoord? Luid de klok, luid de klok

Did you hear? Ring the bell, ring the bell

Did you hear? Ring the bell, ring the bell

Christmas has begun

Light all the candles

It's the time that Jesus was born

In a barn far from here

Peace on earth, lights everywhere

Let the trumpets blare

Stop all the fighting, stop all hate

For now forget all the bad things in the world

Did you hear? Ring the bell, ring the bell

Did you hear? Ring the bell, ring the bell

And an example of a Dutch Christian songs would be 'de herdertjes lagen bij nachte'. This song was written around 1852 by Joseph Alberdingk Thijm, a Catholic writer, and was for the Catholic Church, but later on other Churches started to use this songs as well. The song is probably older, but Thijm was the first person to write it down.


De herdertjes lagen bij nachte The shepherds lay at night

Zij lagen bij nacht in het veld They lay at night in the field

Zij hielden vol trouwe de wachte They kept a faithful watch

Zij hadden hun schaapjes geteld They've counted their sheep

Daar hoorden zij 'd engelen zingen There they heard ​​angels sing

Hun liederen vloeiend en klaar Their songs flowing and ready

De herders naar Bethlehem gingen There shepherds went to Bethlehem

't liep tegen het nieuwe jaar It was almost the New Year

Toen zij er te Bethlehem kwamen When they came to Bethlehem

Daar schoten drie stralen dooreen there were three beams of light

Een straal van omhoog zij vernamen One beam went up to the sky

Een straal uit het kribje benee One beam that came from a crib

Daar vlamd' er een straal uit hun ogen A beam came out their eyes

En viel op het Kindeke teer And fell on the young child there

Zij stonden tot schreiens bewogen What they saw made them cry

En knielden bij Jesus neer And they kneeled down by Jesus

Maria die bloosde van weelde Mary blushed of all this luxury

Van ootmoed en lieflijke vreugd Of humility and sweet joy

De goede Sint Jozef hij streelde The good Saint Joseph he stroked

Het Kindje der mensen geneugt the child that delights men

De herders bevalen te weiden The shepherds returned to their fields

Hun schaapkens aan d'engelenschaar Their sheep were all still there

Wij kunnen van 't kribje niet scheiden We can't see the crib anymore

Wij wachten het nieuwe jaar We'll wait until the New Year