Dutch term – Midwinterhoorn

Midwinterhoorn literally means “Mid winter horn.” It is a wooden horn that is typical for the eastern part of the country. The horns are made of a curved branch of a tree, which is sawed in half length-wise, hollowed out and put back together with a mouth piece attached to it.

In Gelderland and Overijssel, midwinterhoorns are traditionally played during the Advent season. They are often played over a well, to amplify the sound, which can carry over miles and miles.

Man blowing a midwinterhoorn

Blowing the Midwinterhoorn. Credits: Rasbak, Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA)

For me, Midwinterhoorns remind me of my childhood. I grew up in Twente (the eastern part of Overijssel) and fondly remember their eerie melodies rising up and down in the night. They also remind me of the countless hours I spent in my grandfather’s shed, helping him with his woodworking. Opa made several Midwinterhoorns, the largest being well over a meter (about 4′) in length.

I remember the woody taste of the mouthpiece, and how I was never able to get more than one tone out of the instrument. The one tone I could produce sounded more like a whoopie cushion than an actual note. A midwinterhoorn has no holes or valves; the different tones are all created by the shape of the lips and applying different air pressure. It takes quite a bit of practice (and lung capacity!) to play them well. Here’s a video showing an experienced Midwinterhoorn player.

About Yvette Hoitink

Yvette Hoitink, MLitt, CG®, QG™ is a professional genealogist, writer, and lecturer in the Netherlands. She has a Master of Letters in Family and Local History from the University of Dundee, and holds the Certification of Genealogist and Qualified Genealogist credentials. Yvette served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Professional Genealogists and won excellence awards for her articles in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly. Yvette has been doing genealogy for over 30 years. She helps people from across the world find their ancestors from the Netherlands and its former colonies, including New Netherland. Read about Yvette's professional genealogy services.


  1. How nice! Must confess that I never heard of this hoornbloazers tradition!
    One is never too old to learn (more about ones own country

  2. Sara Brower says

    Wonderful tone! Interesting mouthpiece – not like a trumpet or bugle but angled. Thank you for this information.

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