Dutch Language Blog

Vlaggetjesdag in the Netherlands! Posted by on Jun 17, 2015 in Culture

Last Saturday was a special day for Holland: the first day of the haringseizoen (herring season)! In Scheveningen, a beach town close to The Hague (well, it is basically part of The Hague now), this day is celebrated on Vlaggetjesdag (Flags Day). Beside loads of haring, there are many fun things to do, both for young and old.

Fishing boats are open for visits and water tours. Many people dress up in traditional Dutch clothing, and do certain old-fashioned tasks, like the women on the picture, weaving a vissersnet (fishing net).

Women weaving fishing nets on Vlaggetjesdag (Image by Rob Oo at Flickr.com)

How it started

Traditionally, Vlaggetjesdag took place on the Saturday before Pentecost in the havens of IJmuiden, Vlaardingen and Scheveningen. It appears to have gone back hundreds of years, as early as the 1700s.

Later, around the 20th century, the fishing boats would lie in the docks, decorated with flags. On that day, the boats would be checked, whether the engines still work,  equipment is still fine, and so on. After all, the boats had not been at sea for the entire winter. On Pentecost, so the week after, the boats would go out onto the sea. Now, you see, this was the week before Pentecost, so in May. However, nowadays it is celebrated in June. What is going on here?

In the older tradition, the day would be celebrated when the fishermen would leave the haven to catch herring, which was found mostly around Scotland. Now, the day that they return is celebrated: and the boat that arrives first brings the first Nieuwe Haring (new herring).

Below a video of a celebration of this day in 1960, in Urk.


During the celebrations, fishing boats would go around and take people with them. Often, when coming back into the haven,  a real race would start – who would get into the haven the fastest? This was seen as problematic, as it could lead to accidents, and made it much more dangerous for the full boats. In 1960, boats crashed into each other in Scheveningen, after which the Scheepvaartinspectie (national shipping inspectorate) got very angry. This had to stop! They increased rules on safety, after which this race, and the entire vlootrevue (fleet show) fell apart, really.

The end of Vlaggetjesdag?

However, when fishing technology advanced, the meaning of this day diminished drastically at the end of the 1960s. Herring was more and more caught by large trawlers, and during the next two decades, would come for the largest part from Denmark. So “the day on which the fishing boats leave/return” was over – at least for the main focus of promoting herring. Vlaggetjesdag lost its publicity, and it was a lot less attractive for fishers to actually hold a day like it. There were even some years it was not held, or fishing on herring was prohibited. Then, of course, there is no sense in organizing such a day. It seemed the end of Vlaggetjesdag.

A different focus

But then, in the 1980s, Vlaggetjesdag came back. With more celebrations around dances, concerts, food, and other events. Even as exotic as Brazilian, Spanish and other groups performed, and of course, such food could not be left out.

Nowadays, the focus is almost entirely gone from the herring, and the program is a lot more diverse. There is, as there always has been, the Visafslag. This is basically a fresh fish market. You can also eat delicious things like Kibbeling there!

There is since this year also the Vlaggetjesweek in Scheveningen, to increase publicity. It is basically extended Vlaggetjesdag, as there are fashion shows, cultural events, etc. Many events raise money for the Juliana Kinderziekenhuis (Juliana Child Hospital).

This is not the only Vlaggetjesdag held in the Netherlands. There are many around the country around May and June!

What do you think about this day? Would you go?

Do you know something like it in your city?


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About the Author: Sten

Hi! I am Sten, both Dutch and German. For many years, I've written for the German and the Dutch blogs with a passion for everything related to language and culture. It's fascinating to reflect on my own culture, and in the process allow our readers to learn more about it! Besides blogging, I am a German-Dutch-English translator, animator and filmmaker.


  1. Transparent Language:

    Comment received via email:

    Dear Dutch Blog Team,
    I love this blog. I find out lots of interesting information about tradition and life in the Netherlands. And then, the embedded video and the key words with their translation are a great idea.
    As for the Vlaggetjesdag, if I ever happen to visit this magic country at the right time, of course I would like to join it.
    Ga zo door!