Monday, 12 July 2010

Spotted in the Netherlands

School is over!

Classes are over and the school year has come to an end. At this time of the year, all over The Netherlands you see this:

In the month of June, students all over the country start receiving the results of their final exams and soon, the streets become lined up with Dutch flags and school bags hanging from masts.
This means that a son or daughter of the house has passed his or her exams successfully and then, the family wants the neighbourhood to know about the good news. If you live in The Netherlands, I am sure you have seen this in your street or your neighbourhood around this time of the year.

But where does this tradition come from?

Before the custom of sending cards became widespread, people used to communicate news to their neighbours, family and relations by some kind of sign in the front of their houses. This was normally done to let people know that there was a newly-born baby, a birthday, a marriage or a death in the house.

Before the 1930s middle and higher education was only accessible for the elite, for those families that could afford to send their children off to school. It was around this decade of the 20th century when the tradition of hanging the flag outside the house started. If you were lucky enough or had money enough to send your children to school, and these succeeded in their studies, you certainly wanted the whole neighbourhood to know about it.

In the 60s secondary and higher education became also available to the working classes and therefore, more people started hanging the Dutch flag when their children successfully completed their studies. Because not everyone had a flag, it also became common to hang books or school bags too and later, these two habits merged into what we see today: flags sometimes with the inscription Geslaagd (successfully passed) written on them, school bags or books and other school items or even balloons hanging outside the house of a student who has passed his or her final exams.

Do you know of similar traditions for the end of the school year in other countries?

In Argentina, usually when you take (and pass) the last exam of your diploma at university, friends and family will be waiting for you outside the school. As you come out, you get a shower of eggs, flour, vinegar or anything that they happen to find in their kitchen cupboards before leaving the house. It is also customary to cut pieces of your clothes and even your hair!!!!!


Presépio no Canal said...

Hallo Eber! ;-)

In Portugal we have a "bencao das fitas". We dress our black "capas" (no, you are not Zorro))) and we go to a "Estadio"/Stadium. Each cursus has got its colour. Mine is blue. So my "fitas" are blue. In the Stadium we see fitas from orange, to blue, whatever. The priests are there to gave their blessing to us (bencao). After that we have a dinner with family, friends or colegas from the cursus.
In Coimbra we have " A Queima das Fitas". Coimbra is considered the city of students. There are many traditions there.To explain is a post.
You gave me an ideia...
Besos carinhosos. ;-)

Aledys Ver said...

Oh that sounds special! I can picture one of those ceremonies with all the colourful robes... must be impressive!
And in Coimbra then, instead of being blessed, the robes get burnt?
Yes, definitely, you should post about this!!

May said...

Goodness!! This is the first time, I am hearing of such a tradition. Very interesting!!!

Orangesplaash said...

Wowww, Thats cool. Nice to know about the tradition both here in Holland and in Argentina. Back in India, we offer sweets to everyone when the child passes the board exams. Its like a celebration complete with a family get together and sometimes crackers too :)

Aledys Ver said...

Well... there you go! You've learnt something new today :D
Thanks for stopping by!

Mmm... party and sweets - I think I'm loving your Indian traditions more and more! :D
Thanks for your comments!

aggieLap said...

Interesting to hear of these different school/passed exams tradition! I've been familiar with the Dutch one since I've been living here but I didn't know at all other countries had also special ways of celebrating. I'm only used to a "congrats" and opening of the champagne :) Now I'm glad to have learned how others do it. Thx for sharing.

Xoán-Wahn said...

Great post Aledys! I love the tradition! It's understated and simple but gets the point across perfectly! How very northern European! The Argentine tradition is great as well, and presents the perfect contrast. Latin people definitely do things with a bit more gusto! I can't think of anything similar done in Spain. Unfortunately, the tradition here seems to be for kids to NOT pass all of their exams :)

Aledys Ver said...

Your version of the tradition is very sophisticated!! :D
THanks for leaving your comment!

The Argentinean tradition seems a bit too rough, doesn't it? Of course we also have ceremonies and the more formal kind of thing, but the egg,vinegar, flour-throwing tradition is sth that students do right there after you've finished your last exam.
Thanks for stopping by!

Efrutik said...


I love this post. Thank you so much for sharing such an interesting tradition as well as history behind it. I think it is very fun. The Dutch seem very interesting to me...I think I'm mildly in love with their strangeness. As for Argentinians, I didn't know your traditions as well. I think it's super friendly and nice actually to do all this. I have not heard of anything like this in the U.S.A. or in Russia where I have lived. I might look into it to see if I missed out on this type of tradition.

Great post!

Aledys Ver said...

Glad you enjoyed reading this post! I'm also glad that you find Dutch strangeness so enchanting - that means that I have plenty of material to write about and I'll certainly get your attention then! :D
In Argentina, on the other hand, it's not so much that we are strange, but rather more intense!! So we throw food at each other!! :D
Thanks for stopping by!

Just a Plane Ride Away said...

We moved to the Netherlands in June and I remember seeing these backpacks on the flagpoles :-)

That is too funny about the Argentinian tradition of eggs, flour, etc! I guess you hope for a shower nearby!

Aledys Ver said...

Pity that Roxy didn't get to do this, but she can still do it over there, I guess! Not with the Dutch flag, though... I suppose! :D
Yes, in Argentina it gets a bit messy!!!
Thanks for your comment!

BLOGitse said...

oh, boy - what a pressure to those kids and families who have failed! right?
Here in Casa I saw kids outside the school reading the results.
In Finland it's mainly a family happiness. No flagging nor anything else.
They have closing ceremony starting already in kindergarden. At xmas there's a play, singing and at the end of the spring term the same.
When kids have a certificate of matriculation in hand there's a big celebration first at home with all the relatives and friends and in the evening kids jam together to party... :)
Greetings from Casa,

Anita said...

It is the first time I read an explanation about it. I have taken some photos in my neighbourhood for maybe a future post and coincidentally I see your explanation here. The Dutch are a very private people and this side of them (communicating to the world a newborn, a 50th birthday, death or passing school exams) seems very flamboyant to me. Yep, when you enter the unviersity during your first days you are attacked by veterans who throw things at you, mess up with your hair and submit you to "exams". I myself detest this nonsense and because it was getting very violent in all Brasil (involving alcohol and physical abuse) it has been supresses and become a taboo.

Anonymous said...

Even here in the city center, I've seen a few of the flags and bags and always get a smile out of it. Thanks for telling us about the background of it. It's always interesting learning about the traditions and customs of other countries, even for smaller things like this. It's fairly low-key in the US. At most, we'd maybe have a party for family and friends when we graduated high school.

Anonymous said...

Genial, Eber!!! No conocía esa tradición!
Interesantísima la explicación también.
Un beso,
Claudia Gibson

Aledys Ver said...

Yes, the party part of a graduation celebration seems to be the common thing in most cultures, I guess. Same goes for end-of-year plays or things like that...
Thanks a lot for your comments!

It is strange, isn't it? COnsidering how they keep emotions to themselves... but I guess this is a form of expressing themselves? It's actually sort of cute...
The bullying of freshmen at unis or schools is not common in Arg., as far as I know. It used to be a common practice in military schools, but I think it has somehow died down....
Thanks for stopping by!

Well, in the states you have the Proms - which is actually a tradition that has been exported (thank you, Hollywood) to other countries around the world. I think that they do the prom thing here in NL too.
Thanks for your visit!

Me alegro que te gustara! Beso!

Sonya said...

I've seen this several times myself and think it's such a neat tradition!

Patricia Sgrignuoli said...

QUé buena esa tradición, Eber!!!! Sinceramente no la conocía, pero me pareció muy simpática... y me gustó que hayas contado de donde viene esa costumbre tan especial!

buday said...

This made me grin, Aledys, I had no idea a tradition could be so cute. And useful --- no need to steer clear of colleagues so eager to tell everyone just how smart their kids are, haha.

Aledys Ver said...

I'm sure you have! Indeed, it's cute, isn't it?

Sí, es simpático - ya veremos otras tradiciones parecidas para otras ocasiones importantes.
Un saludo!!

Isn't this very practical? Indeed, no need to boast about your kids, you just hang the flag and the books!! :D


Me encantan las demostraciones de felicidad y alegría.

Que pases buen veranito y que disfrutes en tus vacaciones guapa¡¡

Abrazos y un besote enorme¡¡¡

A Salto De Mata

Aledys Ver said...

@Muchas gracias, Miguel!! Que disfrutes tú también!

thamarai said...

hey this explains a lot! I thought it had something to do with the world cup! :D

In India, we just tear papers..though it is not a tradition so to say..:)