Dutch kids

I grew up in Holland Michigan, which every year celebrates its Dutch heritage with a week-long Tulip Time festival complete with Klompen Dancing and parades and boatloads of tulips. There are other similar tulip festivals held in Dutch communities around the U.S. (I know of at least two others in Pella, Iowa and Lynden, Washington), but as far as Holland is concerned its tulip festival is the biggest and best. There’s definitely plenty of Dutch Pride here. When asked their ethnicity on forms and surveys, the people here check “other” and write in “Dutch-American.”
Despite the fact that I am technically all-Dutch (all of my great-grandparents were born in the Netherlands) I used to really hate Tulip Time as a teenager. The tourists and traffic drove me nuts, and the high school Klompen dancing group which had almost 100% participation from the female student population at my high school seemed to me solid evidence that my classmates had been completely brainwashed with the “if you ain’t Dutch you ain’t much” mantra. As a child though, I happily walked in the Kinderparade (required for school each year) and I wore several “Dutch Costumes” which my mom or other family members had made by hand. 
Since we’re just in town for just a couple months I’ve decided to overlook the elements of Tulip Time that are a little bizarre (costumes of questionable historical accuracy? why exactly are all of the Klompen dancers girls even though half are dressed as boys? does anyone here even speak Dutch anymore?) and embrace the thing for what it is: a chance to entertain my children. So last week we tromped downtown and got Elephant Ears and rode on the ferris wheel and the carousel. Wednesday we took them to the Volksparade, one of three parades which happens during Tulip Time:

wooden shoe = cupholder

Lucky for us there was also a little Klompen dancing beforehand. Elliot got really excited when someone’s wooden shoe cracked and flew off. 

I felt the Holland Experience would not be complete without some good pictures of my kids lookin’ Dutch. I originally intended to make them both “Dutch Costumes” but ran out of time and ended up just making one for Elliot. I put those words in quotations even though when someone in Holland (MI) says “Dutch Costume” they don’t think of it in quotations at all; these costumes are SO prevalent here, and have been for such a long time, that historical accuracy doesn’t really matter anymore at all. No matter what their origins back in the Netherlands, they’ve assumed a whole new Michigan-based identity as a symbol of Dutch-ness. Which in and of itself is pretty awesome. Anyway, Elliot’s costume is supposed to be representative of the Dutch province town (thanks Kim for the correction!) of Volendam:

I borrowed a costume for Clementine and got some pictures of the kids in their Dutchy garb (including the ones shown at the top of this post):

at the parade, fading in the heat.

The pattern for this costume came from Fields Fabrics in Holland, which prides itself in providing the area with the patterns and fabrics to make a variety of these costumes. Although I tore my hair out a few times trying to decipher the cryptic instructions and I accidentally sewed the whole thing with a 1/2″ seam allowance instead of the 5/8″ it was supposed to have, I’m pretty proud of this project. He looks like a damn fine little Dutch Boy. I’m not sure it will get worn by Elliot again but there are plenty of little boys in our family who will probably pass this along over the next few years. I leave you with this picture, my very favorite:


Has anyone else out there been to Tulip Time? And I’m curious, does this seem completely strange/hilarious to everyone else?

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You can see more of my photos from Tulip Time on the Made by Rae Facebook Page
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64 thoughts on “Dutch kids

  1. Being Dutch, I find this so funny! Like you said, the costumes are a bit questionable, but it looks like the people wearing them are definitely enjoying themselves! (Volendam is just a small town btw, well known for their fishing, not a province)

  2. Hi Rae! I've been a lurker on your blog for quite some time. I also hail from that strange corner of Dutch-ness that is West Michigan, although I now I am a nomad thanks to my military husband. I used to march in the Tulip parade every year… good times :)

    Over the years I have grown strangely attached to the traditions, and on my list of things to do is to make my daughter a Dutch costume before she gets too big to refuse to wear it, so THANK YOU for the link to the patterns! and your pictures were lovely too, thank you for sharing them!

  3. Yay for Tulip Time and Dutch costumes! I live in Pella, and my little boys wear costumes my mom makes each year. The patterns freak me out a bit. They are tough to follow! I'm hoping to be a bit more involved next year as (gulp) she's making one for me, too.

    I enjoyed seeing your pictures. Love your blog!

  4. Rae, I think he looks adorable. (And who cares whether or not it's correctly Dutch or not? *grin* I bet we have tons of ridiculous ideas around here about what's typically American :D It looks like a wonderful and fun celebration. I'm a sucker for traditions, so I love it!)

  5. Oh memories! Being an ex-Michigander I too have attended this festival many times as a child. I grew up near Michigan State but would go to Holland probably every other year for the parade. We took our kids to the Tulip Festival here in Washington this year. Only one Windmill could be found and no wooden shoes.

  6. I am from Holland too! What year did you graduate? From which high school?? I went to West Ottawa. We made the trip over last Monday and I put my daughter in my old costume (also handmade from a Field's pattern!). She nearly decapitated a couple of tulips, which instantly struck fear in my heart having grown up being threatened with enormous fines for such behavior! Your kids look adorable in their "costumes"!

  7. Even though I am dutch and live in MI I have never been maybe next year I will torture my kids and make them dress up :) My grandparents came over from Netherlands and will speak dutch still. Mostly when they don't want us to know what they are saying.

  8. Ah, Tulip Time. How I miss thee (or, more accurately, thy elephant ears). Just a few remarks:
    1)To those who would scoff at Klompen dancing (RAE :) ) to you I would say, don't knock it 'til you try it. At the very LEAST it's a unique form of aerobic exercise. (And wait, you weren't a participant in this display of cultural (ahem) "pride" in high school?)
    2) Just this weekend I was trying to explain Klompen dancing to some non-Dutch friends and the fact that usually the boys are actually girls. They were VERY perplexed.
    3) My favorite tourist question during Tulip Time week was whether Hollanders wore their costumes year-round. Had a lot of fun with that one.

    Glad you guys were able to enjoy it with your kids this year! The pictures are adorable! :)
    - Lie ;)

  9. Hi Rae,
    I've been a lurker on this blog and started grinning immediately when I saw this post. I didn't grow up in any of the Dutch areas of the states, but I am all-Dutch and have been a CRC member my whole life (my siblings and I covered the spectrum by attending Calvin, Trinity, and Dordt), so while I see where Tulip Time looks strange, I relate at the same time.
    If anything, I've found a lot of blogs to mention tidbits of other cultures/religions that I don't have a background in and am unfamiliar with, so it was nice to see something I could relate to more.
    I think the costumes look great! Give your son a Wilhelmina peppermint and he'd be set.

  10. I missed your question at the bottom of your post before. Growing up I never thought it was that weird. I really got into it and enjoyed it each year, especially because I got to participate in it: parades in grade school, riding the City of Holland float when my grandpa was mayor (oh, the celebrity of it all!), Klompen dancing in high school. It was only once I left Michigan that I was like, "what?! An entire festival devoted to tulips?! And people drive from around the country to witness this?? What the…" Truly, the costumes are unusual (and yes, probably inaccurate), but I guess I still just take it at its basic spirit: a tribute to the Motherland and our Dutch ancestors who left what was known to try and carve out a new life here in America (WOW, that reeked of hokeyness). Just a good time and lots of fabulous junk food, in my book. And pretty flowers.

  11. I grew up in Grand Rapids but never attended Tulip Time, despite my VERY Dutch heritage! I live in Nashville now but went up to visit for my sister's graduation from Hope College and it was just in time for the festival last weekend! I couldn't believe all the tourists there checking out the crazy festivities, so much fun! Yes, it is silly, but West Michigan has a lot of ethnic festivals that are an opportunity to celebrate our diverse roots, which I think is fun :)

  12. Oh, my… oh, my….. that first pic is too cute for words!! Thanks for putting a big smile on my face! :)

    There are Dutch/Tulip Festivals over here in MN, too (in fact, even some Hoekstras), but I've never been to one. Not sure why. I 'think' Norwegians are welcome there. ;) However, I do feel a bit out of place commenting amongst all these Dutchwomen today! Heheh. ;)

  13. Oh my this is so funny! {I'm Dutch} You're kids look SO adorable all dressed up! Looks like exactly the kind of thing I would have hated as a child ;-)

  14. I live in MI, and have always wanted to go to the tulip festival to see the flowers. I enjoyed your post, and the kids are adorable.

  15. I don't know if I can take this much cute on a full stomach :)
    The tiny percentage of Dutch in me wants to see this little festival:)

  16. Completely adorable costumes. But the burning question going through my mind through the whole thing is… How comfortable are those little wooden shoes? I have always wondered that since I was a little little girl but never knew anyone I could ask. O and why do/did they wear wooden shoes?

  17. IT looks awesome! I would love to attend. Yeah for the michigan dutch! Your son looks like he could be in an ad for a Holland vacation. I have been to the apple blossom festival in Winchester VA that has a similar small town, huge event, feel and it was wonderful. Glad you got to experience the fun.

  18. Adorable costumes. I haven't been to Tulip Time, but I've been to Volendam, which was a fun town to visit, but pretty touristy. I love the Netherlands though and am all about random festivals. Looks like your guys had fun.

  19. As family genealogist, I feel like it's my responsibility to remind you that only 6 of your 8 great-grandparents were born in the Netherlands. Johanna Clausing was born in Chicago (but both her parents were born in Noord Holland). Della van den Hoek was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan (but her mom and paternal grandparents were all born in the Netherlands). {end of nerdfest} The kids look adorbs (especially you with those awesome 80s glasses) LOVE YOU!

  20. Rae you already know I'm Dutch! Gotta love the tulip festival and Holland Days Parade we have here in Lynden :) I'm pretty sure we have the exact same dutch outfits and childhood picture. I saved all the outfits and my klompin shoes as well as my dutch clothed doll. All the kids here first sweep the streets to make way for the parade. I was a VERY good sweeper :)

    My Grandma gave me a bunch of her old patterns, SO excited to have original true dutch patterns.

    I'm going to enjoy introducing Bubbalu and Lil Chick to the wonder that is olie bollen and salted black licorice :)

  21. Oh, and also nearly 100% Dutch! My great grandparents immigrated right before the depression hit.

  22. Gosh, so many familiar things in your photos! Good for you guys enjoying it despite the craziness and Hollandness, MI of it all!
    Favorite memory from tulip time/years at Hope though? Forming a little clandestine band to pick tulips late at night just for spite, haha! I swear I only did it once but after working there every summer and having life being overrun with graduation and tulip time all at once and street cleaning parades waking me up early in the morning when I lived on 8th street…well, it was bound to happen despite the legalities ;)

  23. I love, love, love this post! When I was a kid we used to have to drive through Holland on our way to our summer house and I would BEG my parents to stop and see everything there. I was (am) envious of such fun, enve though some people from Holland aren't that into it.
    Great pictures, btw!
    Katessewgreat.blogspot.com

  24. Oh my gosh, I live in Holland now, though I did not grow up here, so when Tulip Time came around the first year I moved in I was completely taken aback at what a BIG DEAL this is! It's a BIG DEAL! (My schools near Detroit didn't have a Dutch dance class, so I thought that was weird!)

    I can totally relate to everything you said! "If you ain't Dutch (or Christian Reformed for that matter) you ain't much!" The traffic, ugh, I had to sit and wait for about 200 school buses to turn left in front of me because half the state comes to this event! I am used to it now, and actually really love it – I come down every year, per tradition, with a bunch of co-workers and we eat carnie food for lunch, yum!

    PS If you ever visit, don't drive in through the exit of Windmill Island after close just to "see what's out there" – you might just get chased down by an angry Dutch man! Embarrassing. :P

  25. Rae, I LOVE this!!! I grew up in Pella, IA and share some of the same feelings about the great festival as you do. That said, now that I am an adult, I can barely stand to miss it like I did this year. I too have dressed my small people up in the costumes. Thanks for the link to the pattern site, I think it's time to sew up a few costumes rather than always try to borrow.

    I just scanned the comments and love the mentions of Dordt, Trinity & Calvin and other random Dutchness that are so common to me but strange to the "not Dutch" :)

  26. We're gearing up for Tulip Time this week here in Orange City, IA. Always draws a big crowd. I'm only Dutch by marriage (read: not Dutch at all), so my first experience with Tulip Time was really fun to watch. I do still enjoy the town coming alive each year around this time. Someday, I may venture to make my kids some Dutch costumes, but might have to wait until they are required for school:) So fun to read about this and be able to relate!

  27. I went to Hope for college (go odd year!), and thought this entire "Dutch" thing was/is SO WEIRD. Then one year, I stuck around for Tulip Time. omg, so awesome and hilarious! I'd love to take my kids one day. For that, and elephant ears, and to see adorable Western Michigan, now that it isn't full of Fear of Finals :)

    And the wooden shoes? I got a pair as a souvenir of my college days, and yes, they really are comfortable!!

  28. Oh Rae, those photos are adorable. My first language was Dutch since my parents came over to America a year before I was born. I still have my mothers first pair of wooden shoes, which she actually wore as shoes. When they came to America they moved to L.A. and pretty much tried to become American. They would get such a kick out of this festival. Although they still speak to me in Dutch we haven't held on to the Dutch pride :( Now that I'm married to an Italian, that heritage a.k.a Ego, takes up all the pride any one family can handle. I want to make traditional costumes for my kids too. I can't believe how Dutch your kids look all dressed up.

  29. Oh I'd love to go to that!! Both sets of my grandparents came from the Netherlands, Freisland to be exact so I grew up quite dutch too!

  30. I feel right at home reading your post and all the comments! I grew up in Grand Rapids and have been to many tulip times in my life. I now live in the land of the Norwegians (MN) and miss the Dutch connections. I went to Calvin as did my hubby and I'm 100% dutch but did not marry a dutchman! I have pictures of my niece and nephew in their costumes and hope to take my boys someday before they get too old and will refuse to wear the costumes. And my mom worked at Fields! The Dutch world is small and I'm sure if all of us dutch women talked, we'd find out we are related somehow or went to school with each other! Thanks for posting and bringing a smile to my face seeing my tulips in the yard are about done which is my one reminder of Tulip time!

  31. I went to the Tulip Festival in Pella once as a kid and thought it was great. My favorite thing I came away with was a love for Dutch Letters. Thankfully there was a Dutch Bakery in Ames where I grew up. I live out west now and have to either make them by scratch or mail order them anytime I NEED them. I loved your pictures. Isn't it funny how things we like as a kid, but hate as a teenager usually end up being things we enjoy again as an adult?

  32. It seems totally normal to me, but that's because I grew up in Albany which was settled by the Dutch, so we also have a tulip parade and street sweeping every year. Several years ago we had a tulip attack–someone came along before the festival and snipped the heads off of hundreds of tulips. So now we have to have a guard posted…I am not kidding!

  33. Hahaha! We traveled to Pennsylvania when I was just a sprout for their tulip festival, and then to Holland a number of times. I still have my wooden shoes and the "dutch girl costume" I wore for Halloween one year. I use the wooden shoes on December 5th for Sinterclas. Although my 4 year old loves clomping around in them any time of the year! :)

  34. Oh yes I was there too. I live in Holland also. my kids went to west ottawa high school but none of them ever went in for tulip time except for a run downtown to eat the fun food. my daughter did march once in the parade. she may have been in the band once also. I have made at least three costumes in the last years for my grandkids. and yes the patterns are awful. I bet each time I made one I made at least a dozen trips to Fields to look at the finished product. This year I made a boys volendam also and the pants in the front is awful to make. yours looked so good. I could not make out the directions at all. I finally made it but it was not right but okay. He looked cute anyway. we went to the tulip farm and took pictures as I had never been there. we also took them down by Kinderplaats. I got some real good pictures. My oldest granddaughter and I marched from her school three times and we had so much fun. I am hoping my grandson who will go to school next year will want to march. Maybe we have passed at sometime since you have been here. I live out by the lake off New Holland and 164th. Linda Gerig

  35. Seriously gasped when the first pic loaded. So crazy cute! Like really, really. I have a friend, also from MI, that is of Dutch heritage. I always thought it was kind of funny, and well, odd, that she was SO proud of her Dutchness. But maybe it was a regional thing? I'm emailing her this link. It will make her day.

  36. Oh, SO cute. Seriously – little dude looks like he was BORN to wear that get up. Just takes my breath away…

  37. I must say, the moment I opened this post, I let out an "awwww" and my heart melted – so stinkin' adorable. And yes it's bizarre/hilarious, but also a ton of fun. I cannot imagine how difficult it was for you to edit these photos; I'm sure each one was priceless.

  38. This is so nice to see. I live in the Netherlands. I didn't know this 'dutchness' is such a big deal with you.
    About the wooden shoes: they were cheap and longlasting.
    As a child I had a pair of red and wore them all the time, so my parents knew were I was in the neighbourhood! (I'm 34 now).

    Enjoy! greetings from the Netherlands, Renate

  39. I absolutely love this post and the outfits. I haven't been to Tulip Time, but I have been something similar in Canada. I grew up in Ottawa, Canada where ther is a tulip festival every year to commemmorate Canada’s role in freeing the Dutch during World War II. In the fall of 1945, Princess Juliana of the Netherlands presented Ottawa with 100,000 tulip bulbs. The festival is in its 59th year and widely attended.

    No it's not nuts!!

  40. Adorable pics…growing up on the East side of the state we have only visited once and it gained quite a the same reaction as yours from my children. It was my mother's day wish, but they weren't getting the lure of it all & I remember being quite offended by their reaction. Funny now! The beauty of the tulip fields were worth it all. Cultural and historic pride holds an important place in the melting pot of America, I believe. Bavarian festival in Oct in Frankenmuth??

  41. This is so funny! I'm dutch myself (but live in Belgium) and I had no idea you had Tulip/Dutch festivities in some cities in the US!

    Your children are adorable! I think your little boy even looks Dutch with his very blond hair (and the costume). Well done!

  42. Ha! That is awesome :). Tulip festival up here mainly consists of driving out to see the tulips, at least for the circles I run in…. :)

  43. hilarious to see these pictures on your blog. i live in denver, CO now, but am home to visit for tulip time and to see my family. happy to see pictures of my alma mater (hhs! go dutch!) on here, as well as photos of 8th street and what i'm guessing is centennial park. :) (and all these places i was on the same day you were!)

    i never realized how odd this dutch thing is until leaving west michigan and meeting people who can't point out exactly where on the map their ancestors are from!

  44. oh, and also: i danced on friday night for the first time in the 9 years since graduating from high school. nerdy? of course. sort of, maybe a little secretly fun? yep!

  45. :) I was there that day, too! With my little boy who was less than interested with the dress up and tulips! ha! We watched the Dutch dancers but left before the parade. You got some cute pictures, though!
    ~Jessica

  46. My family is from Pella, IA. So I grew up visiting Tulip Time – but never participating. I have lots of fond memories. I even have a 'Dutch' costume for my Cabbage Patch Doll from when I was a kid. I married a man who is quite a 'mutt' so its fun to tell my kids that they are at least 'half dutch'.

  47. My family travels through Holland every summer on their way to the MI shore. I loved driving through Holland when I was little because it meant that we were close to our destination, but also because of the Dutch kitsch. So excited to see the pictures from Tulip Time! Thanks for posting!

  48. Great photos – those Dutch wooden shoes look rather uncomfortable though. It's nice to see another part of the country celebrate it's culture. I live in FL, and I've never been to MI. Tulip Time – what fun!

  49. I enjoyed your photos. Thank you for sharing them, and continuing the tradition and culture. I live in Florida, and I've never been to Michigan. Tulip Time – what fun! Those wooden shoes look seriously uncomfortable – though… and maybe hazardous – ha!

  50. Wow, this is so funny! I'm from the Netherlands and I didn't know these festivals existed, great!
    I have never worn a costume like that or 'klompen' in my life :-)

  51. I am 100% not Dutch (though my best friend is and is from Grand Rapids), but I once dressed as a Dutch girl in what must have been an international-themed Christmas program. I will have to see if I can find the photos – I remember my costume featured that hat and an apron. Wooden shoes were involved.

  52. Hi Rae,
    So nice to read your story and see the pictures and read all comments! I am real dutch and live in Paterswolde, a very little village in the northern part of netherlands (province Groningen, near Friesland). And it's so cute, I mean, I have never seen someone in a costume here, and yes, my family all has a pair of wooden shoes and my son can run very fast on his wooden shoes!!! Thanks for participating in your story about the dutch celebration!

  53. Not nuts at all. I see you have lots of dutch lurkers. :-) My grandparents and my in-laws were born in Holland but I speak not a work of dutch (I wish I could as my grandparents are elderly and reverting back to dutch.) We don't have a parade like this in my area but in New Westminster, BC they always have the Sinter Klaas parade around Dec 5.
    Your kids looks so super cute in their dutch outfits.

  54. I love Holland, MI! I am originally from South Bend, IN but we made the 2 hour trek several times to attend the Tulip Festival.

    Had a pair of wooden shoes too!

    :)

  55. I just happened onto you blog and am really loving it! I grew up in Jenison, and lived in Holland while I attended Hope College…so these pictures brought a smile to my face! One of the things I miss most about West Michigan is Fields! My nearest fabric store (other than a Joann's) is 45 minutes away. I was so spoiled always having a Fields right around the corner! Thanks for sharing!!!

  56. I’m half Dutch, and we lived in Holland when I was little, before leaving West Michigan. I always wish I could have learned Klompen dancing, but I did get to dress up in a Dutch costume with my Mom when I was about 2 and then again with my own little girl when my parents moved to Lynden. I think it’s great fun. I love the costumes you made your kids. Thanks for the pattern links!

  57. Your blog stirred some memories. As a four-year veteran of the Dutch Dance while in Holland High in the 50’s, it was interesting you read your impressions. Yes, the Dutch Dance program is a VERY aerobic fifteen min. experience. Our feet were sore in spite of a dozen layers of socks. The weather was often too hot or too cold.. or rainy. But it was grand. My sister was a Dutch Dancer too… we agree it was one of the most memorable Holland experiences we had. We often break into a spontanaeos Dutch Dance “windmill” to embarass our daughters. Now my daughter, who grew up in PA, NJ & TX, wants me to make a DD costume for her. My pleasure. :)

  58. Just found your blog when my sister-in-law was searching images for “how to make a boy Dutch costume” and found pictures of my daughter. She is in several of your pictures of the Dutch dancers. She is wearing the Achterhoek costume which is the boy costume with the striped shirt, black vest, and watch chain. When she was little and would walk in the parades for school, she always had a girl costume, and always wanted me to get her the boy Achterhoek. When she started dancing in high school, she was lucky enough to have a cousin who had that costume and would loan it to her. The pictures on this blog were from her Freshman year. She wore the same pair of wooden shoes into her Junior year. She wore 8 or 9 pairs of socks for every practice and performance. During her Junior year her shoes were wearing thin and one became cracked. Before she could get to Veldheer’s Tulip Gardens to replace them, it cracked completely in half and flew off during a performance. She just continued dancing with one shoe off and one shoe on. Tulip Time starts tomorrow and I’ll have to be sure to head downtown at least once to take in the festivities. Thanks for your blog entry and beautiful pictures. :)

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