Hosting a Dutch Birthday

One of the things I have gotten accustomed to since living in the Netherlands is how the Dutch like to celebrate birthdays. From the office cake that you provide yourself to the chair circle parties at your home.

In the Dutch workplace it is common practise, that on your birthday you bring in a cake or other sweet treat to celebrate and share with your colleagues. My husband (who is Dutch) is a teacher, and on his birthday I send him off with several packs of chocolate biscuits and sweet treats to put in the teachers lounge and even give out to his students that day. If you work in a small office a normal cake will do, but if you have a lot of colleagues I suggest either going for cookies, or several packs of frozen cream puffs (soesjes) which are very economical and always go down well (just make sure you let them defrost in time).

Also with having a Dutch partner I have become quite skilled in how to host a ‘Dutch circle party’, sometimes referred to as the ‘circle of doom’. Don’t let the name scare you, when you are the host it is much less scary if you prepare well.

First you will need to send out invites to all your relatives and friends. This can be done by email, phone or face to face. Normally, a party will be planned for over the weekend, and mid afternoon is a good time, from 1pm – 4pm (don’t be afraid to give a leaving time). And you will need to be sure to give at least 1 week notice so they can fit it into their agenda. If you are inviting a lot of people, keep in mind having enough seating for everyone; it is not unheard of to ask close relatives to bring their own chair if you fear you won’t have enough!

The day of the party you will want to arrange your lounge so you have a nice circle of chairs going all the way around and in the middle place a few tables so people can put their drinks down. If you have a lot of people coming, or an odd shape lounge, get creative with how you put the chairs, and maybe even think about temporarily removing large pieces of furniture like foot stools etc.

Dutch party food is pretty simple. Usually the Dutch start by serving a slice of cake with coffee or tea, so make sure you have enough cake for everyone. Then you will want to have bowls of nibbles for people to snack on. Usually this includes cubes of cheese, sliced liver (leverworst), sliced grillworst, grapes, cucumber, cherry tomatoes etc, and also some bowls of crisps and of course borrel nootjes (party nuts). Keep in mind you will probably need to refill the dishes at least once, so don’t put everything out at the start.

For drinks, you will want to have coffee, a selection of teas and at least two sorts of frisdrank (ice tea, cola, fanta, orange juice etc). Depending on what time of day you have your party you may also want to serve beer and wine.

As you are the host for this party, you won’t be sitting down for long. At the start you will be welcoming guests as they arrive and serving up cake. And through out the party you should keep checking with guests if they would like another drink; get your partner to help out with this too, and don’t forget to top up the nibbles. And when you do have a moment to sit down, enjoy it and try to jump into a conversation with someone near you.


Credit & Attributions

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Posted under: Dutchness

Media Attributions
Dutch 'circle' party, copyright Stephanie Fermor
Dutch party nibbles, copyright Stephanie Fermor