The Dutch version of a Christmas hamper

Kerstpakket and Boxing Day

A typical Dutch kerstpakket

When to see a kerstpakket

When I look back at my working days at the corporate company in the Netherlands I see a big carton box around Christmas time.  Shortly after Sinterklaas every employee receives or can pick up his/ her kerstpakket or Christmas hamper. The kerstpakket in the Netherlands is a tradition by itself. Happy employees with glowing faces and red
cheeks of the traditional Christmas drink leave the office carrying big carton boxes. Boxes that look like presents and perfectly fill up the
empty spaces under the Christmas tree.

What to expect from a kerstpakket

Usually the Dutch Christmas box contains a few kitchen
supplies and some preserved food and drinks in cans and cartons. Most of these
preserved items stay on the  cupboard for years until the products expire and are thrown away. Many employees in Holland feel guilty of throwing away the food and think the kerstpakket is a waste of food. They prefer a Christmas bonus on top of
their salary or a Christmas gift.  A Christmas voucher, with which you can choose your own
gift or leisure activity is really appreciated.

Where can I buy a kerstpakket?

There’s a
great variety of kerstpakketten for sale these days. Wholesalers such as Sligro
and Makro started offering different sorts of kerstpakketten, from basic to luxurious,
in September already. Along with the trend of a healthier lifestyle and the
back-to-basic plan come the kerstpakketten from farms, from small entrepreneurs
who show the love for their town or city by creating Dutch Christmas hampers with
regional products or city souvenirs.  The Christmas boxes in Holland can also be personalised.  Different ranges, different prices, for
corporate companies and small businesses. These days kerstpakketten aren’t just
for employees, but also for business relations. These Christmas hampers for
clients, partners and other entrepreneurs are often referred to as
relatiepakket – like in relatiegeschenk, a gift you give to a business
relationship on other special occasions- .

Christmas hamper with regional, typical Dutch products. 

Credit: lekkereasperges.nl

Where does the Kerstpakket tradition come from?

The
tradition of giving a kerstpakket comes from the 19th century, when
landlords gave their servants some food items, sometimes packed in a box, and a
day off to enjoy the meal and the company of their family. This is a tradition
that existed in the English speaking countries as well as in the Netherlands.
The strange thing is that in Holland the 26th of December is called Tweede Kerstdag (Second Day of
Christmas/ Second Christmas Day), whereas the Anglophone countries use the term Boxing Day. Immediately
the question rises:

Why don’t
we call the 26th of December Kerstpakkettendag?