Strange Dutch Celebrations: Seeing Abraham & Sarah

Irene Van Dam made a comment on a recent post that she’d love to hear my stories about ‘special events’ which Dutch people celebrate – like birthdays, anniversaries and newborns. Great idea – thanks, Irene. Your wish is my command!

I’ve already written about Dutch circle parties, which are weird in themselves! But imagine if it’s a special birthday, say you turn 50… believe me, it’s about to get a whole lot freakier!

50th Birthdays –  Or “Seeing” Abraham / Sarah

Abrahamoffice2

So, you’re turning 50. Maybe you want to keep it quiet, have a small meal with the family, something like that. Live in the Netherlands? NO SUCH LUCK!

Your home, garden or place of work (or all three!) will be decorated by your ‘loving’ friends and family with posters, banners, balloons and a life-sized doll of YOU.

Turning 50 in the Netherlands is a BIG BLOODY DEAL!

Apparently it means you are old enough and wise enough to have ‘seen Abraham’ or if you’re a woman – old enough to have ‘seen Sarah’ and your whole street will know about it! The names come from the biblical figures, Abraham and his wife Sarah. According to the bible, Abraham lived until he was 175 and Sarah until she was 127… so if you make it to 50 you’re deemed old enough to have ‘wisdom through experience’.

Traditionally there’s a big party with, you guessed it – cake!

Or, if your friends are jokers, you might get something like this…

Exhibit A:

Abraham

This was given to my brother-in-law on his 50th birthday party, rather than a traditional cake. Basically it’s just another excuse (much like the Sinterklaas poems) to take the piss out of your friends and loved ones.

His office was decorated like so… (smiley used to cover his handsome face – sorry, bro!)

Abrahamoffice

(The thing on the right is a dummy, looks pretty realistic huh?)

In addition to the hullabaloo at work… he also had a party at home to celebrate. At his birthday BBQ he was given a zimmer frame while we – his friends and family – sang a song to him about how past it and ‘over the hill’ he is. Nice, huh!?

But don’t get mad… get even! Just save up your cruel ideas for when your friends and colleagues turn 50. Or if that’s passed already: 60, 70, 80… they’re all celebrated. Along with 1/2 Abraham or Sarah for when you’re 25!! Then you get half a cake. Crazy Dutchies!

Other ‘kroonjaren’ (translates to crown years) are celebrated as follows:

25 Half Abraham (or Sara / Sarah)
50 Abraham (or Sara / Sarah)
60 Isaac / Isaak (or Elisabeth / Elizabeth / Rebekka / Rebecca)
70 Jacob  (or Anna / Rachel / Lea)
80 Joseph (or Deborah / Asnath)
90 Anthony / Antonius / Efraïm (or Ruth)
100 Methusalem (or Judith)

Names seem to vary (possibly according to region? Help me out here please…) but it’s every 10 years anyway.

Here’s how it’s done the traditional way… the cake my schoonmoeder  was given for her 70th birthday, or ‘Lea’. Accompanied by a big circle party, natuurlijk! 

Lea cake - 70

Looking forward to your birthday now??

Hayley x

Ps – coming up next in this ‘Strange Dutch Celebrations’ mini-series: Having a baby & Celebrating 12.5 years of marriage. If there are any other weird celebrations you can think of that you’d like me to explore… please let me know!

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9 comments

  1. Nice post, sounds quite normal…

    The names are indeed biblical persons:
    Isaak is son of Abraham, (rebekka is his wife)
    Jaboc is son of Isaak (Rachel and Lea are his wife’s)
    Joseph is son of Jacob (Asnath is his wife)
    Efraim is son of Joseph
    Methusalem is the oldest person in the bible (969)

    Antonius is a saint
    Elisabeth, Deborah and ruth are other women in the bible.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I remember when my parents had their 12.5 anniversary (My mom is Dutch; my father not) They had a big party, since a lot of her siblings still lived either at home or close. It was the ’70’s, so I remember she had on this wild Mexican style dress (might as well get lots of nationalities represented lol!), and I got to stay up late which was great, since I was only 7. My dad got her a new accordion, since she had played before moving to the States. No party or gathering in my family is ever complete without accordion music; my uncle played as well. But indeed, a rather odd celebration, especially when trying to explain it to non-Dutch!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s new for me that you can celebrate half an Abraham and an Isaac, Jacob etc. Where in Holland is this? Not were I or my husband come from (Noord-Holland, Utrecht).

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  4. How sweet to send this. I have several photos of the outside of houses, decorated with the weirdest dolls, bikes, banners, beer, wine and ‘just name it’ lol.
    Dutch people make a celebration/party of ‘everything’ hihi

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For the (wannabe) bible thumpers: All this “fun” is based on John 8:57: “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” (New international version). I myself made sure to be on vacation on my fiftieth birthday. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  6. That’s interesting. I’ve lived here for nearly 30 years and never heard of anyone celebrating all those other jubilee years with special decorations beyond flags with the number on it. So I hadn’t heard of those special biblical names for certain dates, either, nor even special cakes for 50 years. I have of course heard of people having big parties for 60, 70, 80, etc. and sometimes whole families go off for a weekend at a holiday park to celebrate. Not having any Dutch relatives, I suppose I have so far been spared these occasions, unfortunately.

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