The Dutch have three national institutions: tulips, clogs and moaning about what’s in your Christmas parcel. And yet, EUR employees should be very happy with this year’s parcel as not all universities are so indulgent as ours. This and much more became clear in EM’s first edition of The University Christmas Parcel Top 8, as reviewed by Dutch university magazines.

8. Nothing in Nijmegen

Kerstpakketten Radboud

It’s a hard life at Radboud University, explained university magazine Vox: “Christmas parcels for Radboud University employees are something from the dim and distant past. The university board used the crisis in 2012 to put an end to the boxes full of chocolate, wine and ragout. After all, this saved a very nice 275,000 euro. Better to make savings on that than on education and research, was the justification at the time.”

“Discussion about the Christmas parcel resurfaced again this year, following an opinion piece in het Financieele Dagblad by Professor René ten Bos. With a touch of irony, but on a serious note, he wrote: ‘How stupid is it to abolish this? You can gain peace on the employment front with this. Actually, even world peace. I’d grant all world populations a Christmas parcel.’ The Executive Board doesn’t agree with Ten Bos, however, and does not envisage reintroducing the parcel.”

7. Poor creativity in Maastricht


Maastricht doesn’t rank too highly either in our Christmas Parcel Top 8: “Fifty euro in Tourist Office gift tokens and a thank-you letter (‘we would like to offer our sincere thanks for your efforts’) that will be sent to Maastricht University employees around Christmas time”, observed Maastricht university paper Observant. “Just like last year, the year before, the year before that and probably the year before that too.”

6. Sensible at VU Amsterdam

Kerstbon VU

VU Amsterdam is keeping it sensible, according to Ad Valvas. “There’s always a lot of moaning about what’s in the Christmas parcel. VU Amsterdam has deprived its employees of this opportunity for years, by simply sending a gift token. People can choose for themselves what they’d like from a special website. This university is still the most virtuous, though.”

“You can choose a sports voucher from the VU Amsterdam sports centre or have a donation sent to the good cause of your choice. There’s also a selection of books, from Jamie Oliver to food scientist Martijn Katan; because perish the thought of reading ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ at Christmas. Those preferring a traditional Christmas parcel can select the Wereldwinkel parcel. It includes a jute bag with henna design, a carton of apple juice and a Thai stir-fry pack.”

5. Compile it yourself in Utrecht


In Utrecht, DUB visited a Christmas market with fake currency. “Utrecht University science faculty employees and officials from the administration office were able compile their own Christmas parcel. Employees were welcomed by a herald as they entered the canteen. They were given a pouch with 16 ducats (with a value of 2.50 per ducat) so they could go shopping. Soft slippers, casserole dishes, books, sustainable wine, organic olive oil, a beer pack, genuine UU clothing items, Kenyan jewellery or just some ducats for a good cause. And if employees didn’t feel like attending this exaggerated Christmas market that was fine too. They can compile a Christmas parcel online but they’ll only receive it in February.”

4. A side table in Tilburg

kerstpakket Tilburg (3)
Het krukje en de rest van de inhoud van het Tilburgse kerstpakket.

They like special combinations in Tilburg according to Univers. “What do you want to eat tonight, dear? Let’s do a packet of pasta again, a jar of sauce and – umm – the basil and papaya (?!?) that we stuffed in that clay jug? We’ll have to use it at some point, won’t we?’ But hang on. Let’s not be too cynical: the surprise is the Dutch Design box that can be used as storage unit, small table or stool!”

3. Traditional at TU Eindhoven


According to Cursor, TU Eindhoven has gone for traditional: “Not only did TU/e celebrate its 60th Anniversary in April, the uni also had one success after the other throughout the year (what’s new?), Executive Board President, Jan Mengelers said in his end of year thank-you speech. All this needed celebrating, so this year the Christmas parcel doesn’t have just two, but three bottles: a red and white Portuguese duo and a sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne to drink away the increasing workload and sustain that lustrum party joy to the bitter end. We don’t want to be very posh about this, but personally we find the TU/e wines generally a little flat-tasting. That’s why we’re looking forward to spending the annual Bijenkorf gift card on something that we certainly don’t need, but that still feels like a nice (and free) overindulgence. But those ‘60 years’ cork coasters: hmph.”

2. World of choice at Wageningen

kerstbon WUR

In Wageningen they have so much choice, nobody can complain: “A complete tableware set or a multi-functional USB charger,” wrote Resource. “And, as this is Wageningen, you can also choose from binoculars or a ceramic(!) birdhouse. That’s just a selection of the dozens of Christmas presents from which WUR staff can choose. Easy for the Christmas parcel creator: you’re hardly likely to hear any complaints doing it this way. There’s a nice message inside the gift token too. But I do wonder how many people will actually read it. Even I gave up half way. For that true Christmas feeling you can also give away your budget to a good cause. Or what about a Donald Duck subscription for eleven comic books. Or maybe you need a new bag or rucksack? They’ve got those too.”

1. Classic simplicity at Erasmus

As EM we’re a bit biased, but of course, the best Christmas parcel is the EUR one: “This year’s Christmas parcel is in a sturdy box with a handy handle that will actually start to hurt a little if you have to trek half way across Rotterdam with it. Just like last year, but then you only discovered when you got home that you’d been dragging a wheeled suitcase around in the box. That’s not the case this year: the content is classic, grey (literally) and robust. But we’ve no complaints, because we do like a traditional Christmas. The cashew nuts, chocolate and melba toast are there, as is a bottle of wine and the obligatory non-food product: a Turkish towel. An important plus point: no pork this year. And another plus: local products including Maasstroompjes biscuits and Rotterdam Zeemansboter peanut butter. And the Tony Chocolonely’s already gone.”