Seeing Abraham or Sarah! A fun Dutch Tradition When You Turn 50!

In the Netherlands turning 50 is considered an extremely special occasion and one that’s typically marked with the installation of a large life-size doll (of an elderly man or woman) in your front garden for the day (or a few hours), often with a corresponding sign that reads “Abraham 50 jaar” (Abraham 50 years old) or “Sarah 50 jaar” (Sarah 50 years old). It is a tradition that honours a person gaining wisdom through experience.

How timely this post is – our Queen, “Koningin Máxima” becomes 50 tomorrow!

Of course with COVID, parties are not able to happen but doesn’t stop this fantastic tradition. Your house, office or even both will be decorated by your friends and family with posters, banners, balloons and, mannequins and as mentioned above, a life-sized doll of YOU. I absolutely love it and while I’m not looking forward to becoming 50 (a few short years) my kids are both well-aware that I EXPECT a Sarah outside 🙂

Depending on what the person looks like or interests are, there are various companies here which you can hire the inflatables.

Here is photo of my neighbour’s Sarah. As she has red hair, it’s very appropriate.

And on Friday, this was put up for my other neighbour – he’s bald so also fitting!

THE ORIGIN

The phrase “Abraham gezien hebben” is actually rather appropriate, as it’s based on a passage in the Bible, John 8: 56-58. In this particular passage, Jesus is engaged in discussion with the Jews, who ask him: “You are not yet fifty but you have seen Abraham?” Jesus replies “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am”. The Jews are clearly surprised at this answer, because Abraham had in fact died before Jesus was born. Back in those days, it was very rare for people to turn 50, therefore, it was a very special occasion! People would look up to you and you would be seen as wise. As Sarah was Abraham’s wife, hence that is used for females turning 50. It is also common to bake a cake, bread or cookies in the shape of a male or female figure.

BEYOND 50?

You can also carry on the tradition for each decade of a person’s life after 50, although these are not as nearly as popular is Abraham and Sarah. Also sometimes when couples are married for 50 years, they also get a big overly decorated house too!

  • 60th Birthday – “Isaac” or “Elisabeth” birthday
  • 70th Birthday – “Jacob” or “Anna or Lea” birthday
  • 80th Birthday – “Joseph” or “Deborah” birthday
  • 90th Birthday – “Anthony” or “Ruth” birthday
  • 100th Birthday – “Methuselah” or “Judith” birthday

What do you think of this tradition? Would you love it or hate it if you had a big doll outside your home? I know some cultures wouldn’t like this but I LOVE it. I often stop and take a photo of the houses I see decorated. The one above is around the corner from my house – so brilliant stopped my bike just to take the photo and congratulate the person decorating outside. You must always congratulate! 🙂

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