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(Inter)national traditions

Dutch people do not celebrate Christmas as much as their neighbors

Many holidays are celebrated worldwide and while the holidays might be international, every country has its own traditions.

In the Netherlands, Easter is usually only celebrated by children who excitedly explore their gardens in the hope of finding sweets and chocolates and getting a glimpse of the Easter bunny.

While Christmas is a holiday that is very popular in many western countries, Dutch people do not celebrate it as much as their neighboring countries. The streets are decorated with many lights, Christmas trees are sold and many gifts are bought. But most of these gifts are unwrapped on the 5th of December instead of the 25th.

In the Netherlands we have our own version of Santa Claus, ‘Sinterklaas’. While Santa Claus and Sinterklaas share many traits like a long white beard and their generosity, they are not part of the same holiday. Sinterklaas is originally from Spain and arrives in the Netherlands by boat every November. Over the course of a couple of weeks, children in the Netherlands place their shoes at the fireplace in their house in the hope that Sinterklaas or one of his helpers climbs through the chimney to put small gifts in the shoes of the children.

The main event takes place on the 5th of December. Families gather and patiently wait for Sinterklaas to knock on their front door. When they open the door, no one ever sees Sinterklaas, yet children can find a big bag filled with gifts on their doorstep. They take the bag inside and so the night begins. Everyone has their own way of celebrating the night. Of course, Sinterklaas is not celebrated without our typical ‘pepernoten’ and ‘Sinterklaas poems’. On the 6th of December, Sinterklaas travels back to Spain, ‘pepernoten’ are replaced by Christmas trees and people start preparing for their next celebration, Christmas.

Short bio of the volunteer:

I’m Flore Paumen, 18 years old, and currently taking a gap year. I love making art, music, playing guitar, photography and traveling.


Erasmus+ is a programme of the European Commission embracing the fields of education, training, youth, and sports during the period 2014-2020. One of the major aspects is the cooperation between the different fields where the programme acts, hence contributing to a diverse and rich Europe.

Amongst the several goals of the programme, the following are prioritised: the objectives of the Europe 2020 Strategy, including the headline education target; the aims of the strategic framework for European cooperation in education and training (ET 2020), including the corresponding benchmarks; the sustainable development of Partner Countries in the field of higher education; the overall goals of the renewed framework for European cooperation in the youth field (2010-2018); the objective of developing the European dimension in sport, in particular grassroots sport, in line with the EU work plan for sport and the promotion of European values in accordance with Article 2 of the Treaty on the European Union.

In order to achieve these goals, the Erasmus+ has several action policies. The Key Action 1 (KA1) is directed towards the mobility of people; Key Action 2 (KA2) for the cooperation for innovation and the interchange of good experiences; and Key Action 3 (KA3) which is for the support of reformation policies.

European Voluntary Service

Since 1991 the University of Madeira Students’ Union has developed a wide incentive policy for voluntary work. In 2013 the Students’ Union started the process to receive, send and coordinate Erasmus+ projects of the European Voluntary Service, in order to have a larger influence in the volunteering field. The Union received its first volunteer withing the ambit of a KA1 project in 2014. Many efforts have been done to allow young people from Madeira to take part in several initiatives in Europe, as well as propose several projects allowing young people from several countries to work in the projects of the Students’ Union of the University of Madeira. The main goal of the voluntary work is the contribution of the volunteers to the communities and places they will be staying, being their work not rewarded with payment.

We believe that the European Voluntary Service is a mechanism full of experiences, allowing the approved candidates to have the privilege of taking part in these projects and benefit the places and communities where these volunteers will be staying.

Since 2013, the University of Madeira Students’ Union has received volunteers that have collaborated in several activities and initiatives. Besides being able to enjoy a wonderful experience which will contribute to their personal and professional growth, they are able to contribute in a unique way to the community in which they are inserted and to join dozens of volunteers from the University of Madeira.