Find out how we bake the difference!

The Dutch Birthday Calendar

We all have calendars. Even if we’ve slowly moved away from actual paper calendars hanging on our walls to the more the digital age of computer or phone calendars,  we both like and need to be reminded of all our day to day activities and commitments. Life gets busy, after all, and we tend to forget things which we ought not to. Like cousin Bert or Aunt Jan’s birthday, for example. And as a person of Dutch descent, that is a real faux pas!

The Dutch love to keep on top of everyone’s special day – at least if you are family or close friends. On your birthday you will receive dozens of phone calls, cards or guests dropping in to congratulate both you and your family with your birthday. If they do drop in, it is important to leave no one out. They will make sure to shake hands and congratulate each person in the house with the birthday of their Mom, sister, daughter, daughter-in-law, wife, whatever the relation may be.

So how, you may wonder, do the Dutch keep all those birthdays straight? Meet the Dutch Birthday Calendar! It is not a regular calendar with year and days written on it. Only the month and dates. This way it can be reused every year. Big win for Dutch frugality! You’ll only need to buy one in your lifetime. Each month features the name of the month on top and then the dates with a blank line behind each one fill the rest of the page. Here is where you write the name of the person who’s birthday is on that particular date. Anniversaries too. Wouldn’t want to be remiss, would you? So you take your calendar and go through each month writing down the names of family and any one else who is deemed a close enough friend to deserve a place on your birthday calendar. That done, you hang it up.

Aha! But where can you put that calendar so that you are the most likely to see it on time to wish the next person a Happy Birthday? (Especially if you want to send a card, you’ll need some advance warning–no Facebook reminder on the day itself will do in such a situation). Now here comes the amusing part. In your bathroom, of course! Precisely what is meant here is the room with only a sink and toilet– not the whole bath/shower room. And here it gets even funnier. The Dutch call this room ‘the toilet’. So you hang it in your toilet, naturally! This way you are sure to have plenty of private, uninterrupted time each day to sit and look at your birthday calendar. Brilliant!

Allow me to interject here with a story that gets me in stitches every time I recall it.

My parents, though of Dutch descent, live in Canada. My in-laws live in the Netherlands. My mother had sent a Christmas card to my in-laws one year which included a nice family photo. A few weeks after sending it Mom got a phone call from Holland. It was my father-in-law. He had received the card and was calling in all good manners to thank my Mom for it. He said, ” Thank you very much for the nice picture you sent. We have it hanging in the toilet.” Now, my Mom knows enough Dutch to know exactly what he meant, but it didn’t stop her from breaking out into a huge grin upon hearing this news, and we all had a good chuckle once she hung up the phone.” I guess the actual Dutch meaning is lost in translation, but it sure makes for fun conversation.

And that, my friends, is the Dutch Birthday Calendar explained.  A little quirky maybe, but very practical and straightforward, just like the Dutch themselves.