Planning for the Holidays in May

The common Dutch expression goes,” April doet wat hij wil” which translates to,” April does what it wants”. This April has been no exception with the weather delivering the classic four seasons in one day and a serious Winter flashback. At last, May marks the arrival of warmer spring weather and is full of special days honouring historical and cultural traditions.

Get your calendars ready as we take a closer look at some of the holidays that will be celebrated in the Netherlands this May.

1. Remembrance Day (Dodenherdenking) – May 4th
Remembrance Day in the Netherlands, though not a holiday, is a solemn observance dedicated to honouring the Dutch victims of World War II and subsequent conflicts. At 8 p.m., the country observes two minutes of silence to reflect on the sacrifices made by those who lost their lives in wars. Ceremonies take place at war memorials across the nation, and wreaths are laid to pay tribute to the fallen heroes. The official memorial is hosted at Dam Square in Amsterdam, right across from the royal palace. This is where the King and Queen will lay the first wreath to honor those who bravely gave their lives in the Second World War and conflicts thereafter. It is common for Dutch households to watch the National Remembrance on TV. If you tune in a bit before 20:00 pm at NPO 1 or the NOS livestream. This is where you’ll get the cue when the 2 minutes start, and when they are over.

* A pro tip if you are new to the Netherlands is to set a reminder for 8 PM on the 4th so that you don’t forget the solemn two minutes of silence by accident and for example, plan a lively dinner on your balcony during this time (as a random and entirely not personal example that does not still make the writer of this article cringe 3 years later)

2. Liberation Day (Bevrijdingsdag) – May 5th
Following Remembrance Day, the Dutch celebrate Liberation Day on May 5th to commemorate the end of the German occupation during World War II. This day symbolizes freedom and is marked by free festivals, concerts, and events throughout the country. It’s a time for reflection on the importance of liberty and the sacrifices made for peace and democracy.

Liberation day is only a public holiday where businesses and schools are closed every five years. The next official Liberation Day national holiday will be on May 5, 2025.

If you would like to read more about the history of Liberation Day in the Netherlands you can read more from the Verzets Resistance Museum at this link

3. Ascension Day (Hemelvaartsdag) – May 9th in 2024 (The Thursday 40 Days After Easter)
Ascension Day is a Christian holiday commemorating the ascension of Christ. In the Netherlands, it’s a public holiday marked by church services and outdoor activities like hiking, cycling, and picnicking. Many people take off work on the Friday to take advantage of the long weekend and enjoy quality time with family and friends in the warmer Spring weather

4. Mother’s Day (Moederdag) – May 12th in 2024 (Second Sunday in May)
While not a public holiday, Mother’s Day is widely celebrated in the Netherlands as a day to honour mothers and maternal figures. Families often gather for special meals, give gifts, and express gratitude for the love and care provided by mothers. It’s a heartfelt occasion cherished by many Dutch families and others across the world.

If you recently moved and will be spending this day away from your mom this day might look very different for you than in previous years which can be difficult. Making sure to plan in advance for a gift to be delivered to your mom on this special occasion can help create new traditions for the celebration.

5. Whit Sunday (Eerste Pinksterdag) – May 19th in 2024 (49 Days After Easter)
Whit Sunday, or Eerste Pinksterdag in Dutch, is part of the Pentecost holiday period and commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of Jesus. It is a Christian celebration observed with church services and gatherings.

Whit Monday (Tweede Pinksterdag) – May 20th in 2024 (Seventh Monday after Easter)
Whit Monday, or Tweede Pinksterdag in Dutch, falls on the day after Whit Sunday and is also a public holiday in the Netherlands. Many people use this day for leisure activities, family gatherings, and outdoor events as part of the extended Pentecost weekend celebrations.

Honourable Mentions:

6. National Windmill Day (Nationale Molendag) – Second Saturday and Sunday in May
Dutch windmills are iconic symbols of the Netherlands’ heritage and ingenuity. National Windmill Day allows visitors to explore working windmills across the country, learning about their history and significance in Dutch culture. It’s a fantastic opportunity to witness these majestic structures in action and appreciate their role in traditional Dutch life.

You can use this opportunity to visit the Kinderdijk windmills which are a UNESCO World Heritage site. On these special days as many windmills as possible will be operated simultaneously. If you have not visited this site yet this is definitely not something to miss. find out more about the event at this link.

May in the Netherlands is jam-packed with special experiences and the perfect excuse to head outside and enjoy the warmer weather and longer Spring days. If you have recently relocated to the Netherlands these holidays firsthand can be a great way to gain insights into the way of life in the Netherlands and Dutch history and traditions.