The Delft & Gouda light festival are two charming December events in Holland. They take place in the historical city centre and put their own unique local culture in the spotlight.
The night is dark. Darker than usual. All lights in the city have been dimmed. The Dutch usually stay inside in the cold December months, but tonight everyone is out on the street. Do like the locals, follow your nose. The scent of glühwein, hot chocolate and oliebollen – Dutch doughnuts- fills the air. It leads you straight to the main square where a choir is singing and a huge Christmas tree is waiting to be lit.
When is the December Delft & Gouda light festival?
Lichtjesavond, Dutch for Evening of Lights, is the Delft December light festival. It takes place on Tuesday 10 December 2019 and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The Gouda light festival is 3 days later, on Friday 13 December. It’s called Kaarsjesavond, Dutch for Candle Night.
Are Delft Evening of Lights and Gouda Candle Night the same?
These two December events in the province South Holland are very much alike.
- The Christmas tree lighting ceremony starts at 7 PM on the main square and is the main attraction of the Delft & Gouda light festival.
- All churches in the historical city centre open their doors to the public and have special activities.
- There are stands selling artisanal products and very typical Dutch food and drinks. Besides the Dutch doughnuts- oliebollen- , the pea soup – erwtensoep- is also very popular
- Choirs pop up on every corner. Dressed in Dickens’ costumes or santa’s costume the choirs from the region bring the top Christmas pop and classic songs.
- There are different routes through the city centre to enjoy the light festival.
Which December event in South Holland to visit
Should you visit both when these two Dutch December festivals are so similar? Yes, do add it to your list of Holland light festival visits! There are some details which make Lichtjesavond in Delft differ in feel and looks from Kaarsjesavond in Gouda
The main differences of the Delft & Gouda light festival are:
- the routes
- the locations of the markets
- how the cities use their traditions.
Choose a light route
For the first time in the history of the Delft Evening of Lights festival you can choose between a couple of routes. They lead from the market square to the different festive hubs and pass various historical streets full of music, food and local products.
Tip: take the route along the oldest street of Delft, the Oude Delft. The canal is very picturesque: all buildings are lit by colored flood lights and light guirlandes hang over the water. Do stop by the Maria Jessekerk, a small, cosy church.
The Gouda Candle Night has used routes before. Gouda works with themed routes, which is great! You can choose to go arty or historical.
Go christmas market hopping
Gouda’s December event offers a lot more activities inside monumental buildings and churches. Unlike Delft, the festive markets are mostly inside.
Tip: visit the St Jan church for free, gaze at the huge stained glass windows and stroll through the covered market where locals sell their artisanal products.
Dutch traditions in the spotlight
Delft 2019 was a celebration of the Golden Age, Delft Blue & Vermeer. This theme will also come up in the Lichtjesavond on the 2nd Tuesday of December. Check the website for all activities, performances and routes.
The Christmas tree on the main square of Gouda is a gift. The city’s Norwegian sister town sends a tree to Gouda every year and has done so the last 60 years.
The lights in the tree itself are not real candles anymore. Gouda, city of candles does like to keep the tradition of lighting candles on this special evening – hence the name Candle Night-. Just before the lighting of the tree, the city’s electric lights are turned off. In Gouda’s City Hall and in some of the houses on the market square, real candles are lit.
A last tip: For me, the lighting of the tree is not the highlight. I love the atmosphere, the activities. Like any other festival, these two Dutch December events are great opportunities to get #socialwithalocal. Do ask, do sing along, do join the celebration. The Delft & Gouda light festival program already start at 4 PM. Around 6 PM the atmosphere in both cities is best. If you do decide to join the lighting ceremony on the market square, make sure you’re there at 6:30 PM or earlier.
For more info on the light festivals’program:
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