A Blog by International Students at Leiden University

A Modern Tradition: Backpacks on Flagpoles

Did you spot the backpacks hanging on the flagpole of many houses, along with a Dutch flag, last month? Not only backpacks but if you look closer you could see some also had a string of old exercise books as well as a banner saying Geslaagd (passed). As a nation who loves to celebrate things, it actually is not that surprising. But what is the occasion?

It is a tradition of decades-old for Dutch families to announce their son or daughter passed their final exams at the end of high school (eindexamen). So, in the second week of June every year, you can see many of these flagpoles decorated with a backpack to announce the good news.


This apparently was the way people used to announce this at the time when there was no Facebook to share pictures. However, the more I think about it the gladder I become that Dutch people chose to keep this tradition alive. It is such an elegant and quiet way to do it without exaggerating. It is also good for the receiver. All you need to do is to cycle around the city to see if people you know passed it or not without having an awkward moment and knowing how you need to approach them if there is no backpack.


You might even see people who are from other countries living in the Netherlands also join to tradition by putting backpacks on their own flag, sometimes together with a Dutch one. Another possible option you might encounter is seeing several backpacks on a single flagpole, for families with more than one child taking the exam the same year.

Now you know what the backpacks on the flagpoles mean, so you can look out for them next year. What do you think about this tradition? Do you have a similar one in your home country? Share in the comments!


One comment on “A Modern Tradition: Backpacks on Flagpoles

  1. David Butler
    June 11, 2020

    This is a very simple, beautiful, elegant tradition.

    In America, this same occasion has become a(nother) display of crass, wasteful social idiocy….with students feeling they all “deserve” to have their parents spend outrageous amounts of money (hundreds to even thousands of dollars) for a single evening of pretending to be independently wealthy douchebags. Special outfits, limosines, live music, hotel rooms, restaurants…just surreal.

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