Text: Žikica Milošević
The culture of the Netherlands is generally marked by their main characteristics, which are sobriety derived from Lutheran and Calvinist traditions, mercantile spirit, the spirit of exploration and cultural liberalism (giving asylum to virtually everyone who felt oppressed). Their tolerance was sometimes unusual when it comes to certain aspects of life, like the legalisation of certain habits and profession or practices, as well as same-sex marriages (at the time). But the culture of the Dutch is always a bit a step beyond.
THE GOLDEN AGE
Of course, what is the culture without money? So the Dutch Golden Age is the peak point of the Dutch culture, where there was an enoromous output of art of every kind. So for instance, Dutch Golden Age painting was among the most acclaimed in the world at the time, during the seventeenth century. There was an enormous output of painting, so much so that prices declined seriously during the period. From the 1620s, Dutch painting broke decisively from the Baroque style typified by Rubens in neighboring Flanders into a more realistic style of depiction, very much concerned with the real world. Types of paintings included historical paintings, portraiture, landscapes and cityscapes, still lifes and genre paintings. In the last four of these categories, Dutch painters established styles upon which art in Europe depended for the next two centuries. Paintings often had a moralistic subtext. Dutch painters, especially in the northern provinces, tried to evoke emotions in the spectator by letting him/her be a bystander to a scene of profound intimacy. Many genre paintings, which seemingly only depicted everyday life, actually illustrated Dutch proverbs and sayings, or conveyed a moralistic message, the meaning of which is not always easy to decipher nowadays.
SANTA CLAUS AND THE HOME OF THE REFUGE
What we said about the Dutch economy and colonial trade and the spirit applies here too. The Dutch were a great importer of culture (giving refuge of the Calvinist French after the St. Bartholomew Night, in the Netherlands proper and in South Africa, and the Jews from Spain and Portugal, in both Netherlands and Pernambuco), but also they were the people who introduced Santa Claus or Father Christmas in America. Namely, like in Rusyns in Serbia, it is not Fsther Chistmas who gives children presents, not on Chrsitmas. It is St Nicholas, which is the older tradition. Sint Nicolaas or Sinterklaas evolved into Santa Claus although he is not a female Spanish saint at all. Sinterklaas has a companion known as Zwarte Piet. Since the Dutch are not giving a damn about the political correctness when it comes to the customs, but they are extremely polite and correct, this “Santa’s Little Helper” is going to stay black and helping Sinterklaas.
The Dutch are also the fierce beer lovers. And they know how to produce one. Amstel and Heineken might be the tow most known brands, but the tradition of brewery and beer consuming is one of the most prominent in the world, and there is no wonder that the Netherlands is, as we mentioned, the second biggest beer exporter in the world.