Welcoming Newborn Babies-A Dutch Tradition

Newborn BabiesDifferent countries and cultures have different traditions around the arrival of a new baby. I would like to dedicate a few posts to these traditions. By the way- your comments and feedback would be most welcome!

I will start with the one I’m most familiar with myself, being a Dutch: the tradition in The Netherlands to celebrate by eating “beschuit met muisjes” as well as to offer them to the family and friends who visit to meet the newborn baby.

Let me explain first what “beschuit met muisjes” is: take a small round crispy rusk, spread it with butter and top with sugar-coated aniseed. It is believed that the aniseed helps to stimulate lactation. The aniseed is available in pink/white or blue/white, the choice obviously depending on the baby’s gender. They are very crunchy and delicious! It is assumed they are called “muisjes”, meaning little mice, because usually they still have a little bit of the tiny aniseed stalk sticking out, which if you interpret that as a tail, makes the whole thing look a bit like a little mouse (need a fair amount of imagination there!). Mice were also considered to be a symbol of fertility.

Rusk was a luxury food in the 17th century, as well as anything sweet and sugary. These types of food were mainly eaten when there was reason to celebrate. Poor people would not be able to afford rusks nor the sugar-coated aniseed, and would eat white bread with sugar instead.

Originally, there were only white “muisjes”, until pink was introduced around 1860. White would be used if the baby was a boy and pink for a girl. Then for a long time people would put pink and white “muisjes” on the rusk, as that was the only way they were available. It wasn’t until 1994 that blue “muisjes” became available, which happens to be the year my second son was born, so we didn’t miss the opportunity to try them and they taste just as yummie!

In 1938 the company who produces and sells the “muisjes”, decided to temporarily make them in orange as well and that year a little princess was born (princess Beatrix, the mother of the current King Willem Alexander). The Dutch royal family is from the House of Orange-Nassau, hence orange being the colour of the royal family and also in general our “national colour”. Orange “muisjes” are only produced when a Dutch prince or princess is born.

It is customary to not only make “beschuit met muisjes” for people that come to visit at your home, but to also take them to work to hand out to your colleagues. If here are older siblings of the new baby, they will treat their teachers and the children at school to “beschuit met muisjes” as well.

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