Isanya Köhne

For those who’ve been in the Netherlands for a year or longer, you may have noticed something about the free time that’s granted to many students here. The Netherlands indeed has an interesting way of arranging holidays within each calendar year. The aim with these short but frequent breaks is to give students a breather from all their school work. To keep it short and simple, below we will discuss some of the must-know breaks in your year of study as well as to how it’s divided within a year. 

In the Netherlands, the same holidays are celebrated almost over the entire country. However, some are only celebrated in the south, some just in the north, and sometimes the vacation period differs per region you live in. Your school also plays a big role into whether you have a certain break or not, as some aren’t mandatory and therefore the country leaves this up to schools and universities to decide. This is what 2020 has in store for you break-wise: 

1. Voorjaarsvakantie’ aka Spring Break
Northern region: 15th till the 25th of February
Southern region: 22nd till the 1st of March

​The first vacation period of the year is halfway through February. Depending on your school, you either have one or two weeks off. As you can see the northern region of the Netherlands has this break a week earlier than the south. The southern region uses this time to celebrate what we know as Carnaval, a festivity in which the Dutch dress up and throw a big party for a couple of days. You can check the blogpost about this holiday in particular if you’d like to learn more about it! Besides Carnaval, an activity that the Dutch love to do within this vacation is to head south to the Italian and Swiss Alps to go skiing. 

2. ‘1e & 2e Paasdag’ or Easter
The first and second day of Easter are considered a small break within your school schedule. The 1st day typically falls on a Sunday already and the 2nd on a Monday, giving you that day off. 

3. ‘Koningsdag’ or Kings day
Kings day is the day the king of the Netherlands turns a year older. Yes, indeed, it is his birthday and therefore the entire country gets this day off to enjoy many flee markets and/or festivals and parties in the name of the king. 

4. ‘Meivakantie’ aka May Vacation
Entire country: 25th April till the 3rd of May (ranges a bit every year)
The may break is usually a week or two, depending on your school, in which students get a break to either prepare themselves for upcoming exams or to wind down after just having finished them. You’ll notice that depending on your school, this will count for many of your breaks in the year. May vacation is a great time to go and check out the tulip fields that are in bloom within this period. Another two important holidays that typically fall within this break are Day of Remembrance (4th of May) and Liberation day on the 5th of May, which both take a time to honour the people that fought and died in the second World War. 

5. ‘Hemelvaartsdag’ or Ascension Day 
21st of May 2020
This holiday commemorates the ascension of Jesus Christ according to Christian belief. It is till this day the reason for a day off.

6. ‘Pinksteren’ aka Pentecost
31st of May and the 1st of June
This Christian holiday commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ. It is also till this day, reason for a day off. 

7. ‘Zomervakantie’ or Summer vacation 
Northern region: 4th of July till the 16th of August 
Middle region: 18th of July till the 30th of August 
Southern region: 11th of July till the 23rd of August 

Summer vacation is the biggest vacation period within a calendar year. Students usually have seven weeks off from school. As the Netherlands grants her students with many breaks throughout the year, the summer break is shorter than in some other European countries.

8. ‘Herfstvakantie’ aka Autumn break 
Northern region: 10th till the 18th of October
Southern region: 17th till the 25th of October 

Fall break is again there for students to catch a breather from their school work. Depending on your school you will have deadlines right before or after this break. Universities have the right to have different dates than the ones given above. 

9. ‘Kerstvakantie’ or Christmas holidays 
Entire country: 19th of December 2020 till the 3rd of January 2021
Last but not least we have a Christmas break that ends and begins a year. The break is two weeks to celebrate the first and second day of Christmas and of course the new year. 

So, in case you were wondering when the breather moment is going to come, we hope this little list gives you a better understanding. As we are currently almost all at home, studying from there, it might feel a little different, but breaks are still as important as they were before! We hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!