Saturday, February 22, 2014

Religion & Weather in the Netherlands

Christianity has had a strong impact on the Dutch where you find a combination of Roman Catholic and Protestantism. 

Advancing with the Roman Empire, the Holy Roman Catholic Church began spreading through Europe in the first centuries after the death of Christ. By the seventh century  it arrived in the fertile valley of the Netherlands and was quickly adopted by the inhabitants.

Protestantism came in the sixteenth century with the ideas of Calvinist and Lutherans. These thought leaders found many followers among the Dutch nobility which led to conflict between the Protestants and Spanish controlled Catholics. The result was the Eighty Years War in the late 16th century and early 17th.

Eventually, William of Orange, the Protestant leader, advanced the Peace of Religion, a political move to get the Dutch to join forces against the Spanish oppressor. As a result, in 1648 the Dutch gained their independence from Spain.

Following independence the Protestants and Catholics of the Netherlands combined their efforts toward the common goal of advancing the Netherlands culturally, scientifically and economically to unprecedented heights. As a result, the Dutch prospered, the 17th century, the Golden Age for the Dutch.

Overtime the Dutch drifted away from organized religion toward a more secular society. By 2002 it has been estimated that 41% of the population is not affiliated with any religion and only 20% attend religious services - 31% claim to be Catholic and 20% claim membership in the Dutch Reformed Church.

A recent influx of Muslims looking for work, has led to a over half a million residents practicing the Muslim faith. There is a fairly large Jewish community, though it was significantly diminished during WWII and  people practicing other beliefs such as Humanists,  Buddhists and Hindus..

The peak tourist season goes from June to August, which is known for its hot, humid periods. While tourist flood into the museums, tulip gardens, and cheese farms, the best bet it the summer is to sit in a cafe next to the canals and sip wine of some of the special dutch aperitifs while making local friends. Remember the Dutch begin their holiday the last week in July so they may be sparse in August.

Spring is from mid-March through May. This time of the year, the daffodils bloom in April and tulips in May.  Easter is busy in Amsterdam, but if you can visit on April 30th you can share in  Koninginnedag, Queens Day, and share in a beautify spectacle.

Indian summer starts in early October and is a wonderful time to visit. Tourist volumes begin to drop off and the cities calm down. You can spend leisure time in the Museums and you are sure to find Dutch citizens in the local pubs, which get quite cozy as winter approaches. Prices also drop on accommodations and in small neighborhood restaurants.

Later, in Winter you will experience temperatures close to freezing with snow and ice storms; but, you can also experience the passion the Dutch have for ice skating. Speed skating is by far the top sport in the country. So, whenever you go to the Netherlands, you will find something interesting to do.



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