“Society is like a large piece of frozen water; and skating well is the great art of social life."
- Letitia Elizabeth Landon
I find this quote of Letitia Elizabeth Landon very fitting to the history of Ice skating in the Dutch Winter tradition.
From the olden days, skating in cold winters in long distances was the only means of "transportation" for the Frisians because a horse was not affordable for everyone. So has it been told that Ice skating started in the around the 16th century in Calvinism era where many Catholics and many of its practices and activities has been abolished. Ice skating was used to replace these practices that brought people together and gave the sense of independence and freedom. During the time when Calvinism was on the rise alot of laws, rules and new standards that are far more strict than usual has made people felt trapped but through ice skating, they had the means of escape from that feeling. A moment where everyone comes together - despite their beliefs and life status.
As soon as the temperature goes down to 1 digit degree, anybody's human nature would start preparing the winter jacket, shoes, gloves, scarfs and caps. For the Dutch, this list is not complete without the skates.
FACT BITS: Elfstendentocht
"Will there be Elfstedentocht this year?" - this is a question every Dutch asks every winter.
Elfstendentocht means Eleven Cities Tour, the biggest ice skating tour in the world. It is almost 200 km long skating trip on natural ice which is organized by the Koninklijke Vereniging De Friesche Elf Steden. Leeuwarden, the capital of the province of Friesland, is traditionally the starting and arrival place. The 1st offcial Elfstedentocht was held in 1909 and is held no more than once per winter. There were 15 Elfstedntochts since it started were the most recent took place in 1997. The tour can only be organized if the condition of the ice permits.
King Willem Alexander is also an ice skating enthusiast. He is such a huge fan that in the 1986 Elfstedentocht he signed up and finished the it, it was told that when the King (at that time, the Crown Prince) finished the tour Queen Beatrix (now the Queen Mother) was proudly waiting for her by the finish line and gave him a big hug - just like any mother does.
FACT BITS: Ice Skating for the Dutch is a serious sports
The numbers do not lie. The medal tally from 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea has brought so much pride to The Netherlands.