Wednesday, April 25, 2012

A to Z: Verjaardag: Birthdaying in Dutch



In Dutch, people don't have birthdays--they birthday. The closest translation for birthday is verjaardag--the day you celebrate the anniversary of your birth. As in it's your birthday.

But jarig, an adjective (in English it might be more of a verb) is used much more often. Instead of saying today is my birthday, people say Ik ben jarig vandaag, which translates as I'm birthdaying today. In Dutch, you wouldn't ask when's your birthday, but when are you birthdaying (waneer ben je jarig?)

In Holland, birthdaying is a unique thing that, for us poor non-Dutch souls, is totally worth experiencing.


Imagine this: you arrive at the jarig's house (bearing a gift--very important) and you find the living room furniture (or patio, if it's summer, or if you live in Curaçao) arranged into a circle. As people arrive, the circle fills up, and then coffee is served in tiny demi-tasse cups. A plate of cookies (homemade, of course) is passed around--please note it's very rude to take more than one. If you're lucky, the plate might be passed around once more, and then you're allowed to take one more cookie. Otherwise, be quiet and drink your coffee. Towards evening, perhaps your luck will hold and wine might be served, with cheese and crackers. And you'll always remain in the sacred jarig circle--it's unspeakably rude to stand up and wander. Sit.

The jarig person is responsible for everything: cookies, coffee, jarig cake (taart), drinks. Even in Curaçao, where all the rogue Dutch have emigrated, this tradition still holds. Jarig celebrations are more often held at a beach bar here, maybe a beach BBQ, or if at home, the sacred jarig circle is seldom seen. But the jarig person still pays for everything. At home it's not so conspicuous, but say the party's at a bar. The jarig person is the one getting drinks for everyone, or they may open a tab to which everyone's drinks are assigned to, and pay the bill at the end of the evening.

That's why the gift you bring is so important. It's something like your VIP pass to the all-inclusive party.

One more quirky jarig custom: The jarig person isn't the only one that gets the happy birthdays. Family and close friends are also congratulated.

Say you have a coworker who happens to mention it's their father's birthday. Your response? Gefeliciteerd (congratulations). Or gelukkige verjaardag. Or hartelijk gefeliciteerd. All with the hard G you practiced with the Gezellig post. Listen to some jarig congratulation phrases here.

At the jarig parties, jarig circle or not, family and close friends get a gefeliciteerd, too. Even if you don't know them. Even if you just met them. Wife? Gefeliciteerd. Boyfriend? Gefeliciteerd. Son or daughter? Gefeliciteerd.

You've now completed Crash Course in Dutch Manners 101. You're ready for your first jarig celebration in Holland (or Curaçao).

18 comments :

  1. Thanks for sharing this bit of Dutch culture with us Guilie. It sounds like a real celebratory atmosphere with family members and close friends being congratulated as well. Great Job by you to give us a feel for how to handle a verjaardag.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed it, Gary, and thanks for stopping by. The funniest thing is that the Dutch don't seem to get how strange it is for us non-Dutch to get congratulated for someone else's birthday, haha. I've tried to explain it, but to them it's just a matter-of-fact thing. Just makes it funnier to me :)

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  2. Hm. This sounds very familiar to me...Have you ever read the blog Invading Holland? I think that you may be able to relate to something called the "Dutch Circle Party."

    http://www.invadingholland.com/the-dutch-circle-party-guide/

    -Barb the French Bean

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    1. LOL--no, I haven't read it, and thank you for the link! I suspect I'll become a regular visitor :D

      Thanks for the visit!

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  3. I love the idea of turning birthday into a verb! Very celebratory!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Margaret!

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  4. Lang zal hij leven! I remember our Flemish friends singing this to us during birthday parties we have over in Belgium.

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    1. Yes! Haha, Janna, that's exactly right :) That song is a staple of any bday celebration. Does Belgium also do the *jarig* circle?

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    2. I don't think it's done quite the same way. I love the idea of the jarig circle.

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  5. Awesome! I love the idea of birthdaying! Thanks for sharing.

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    1. Glad you enjoyed this, Kristi, and thanks for stopping by!

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  6. That's fascinating! I love that the rest of the family gets congratulated right along with the person birthdaying. :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Peggy, and I'm glad you liked the post :) Maybe we should "universalize" this, huh?

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  7. I like this celebration much more than a clown or magician at the party. Thanks for stopping by my blog. Happy home stretch of the A to Z.

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  8. I didn't know any of this! It sounds like lots of fun. Thanks for sharing!

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  9. Afrikaans is similar. 'n Verjaarsdag is a birthday. Ek vanjaar vandag means I birthday today.

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