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Good Cheer and Sparkle

October 24, 2009

So that’s it then.  Christmas 2009 has been decided.  We’re still in October but we know where we’ll be and who will be with us.   We’re talking The Hague with Family!

Here’s a picture of Stella getting into the Christmas spirit:

Stella Claus

You can see she just loves it.  Look at the jaunty angle of her hat!

Christmas is a strange thing – the build up is huge; the anticipation, the excitement, the twinkly decorations, the cheesey music and the sparkly wrapping are all far more exciting than the actual day itself.  I have to admit to loving it all.

Being fortunate enough to live in the Netherlands where Sinterklaas, which takes place in early December and only has a two week build up, is still the primary festive celebration, we are not subjected to Christmas from the first day of September onwards, which means we are not already suffering from jingle bell fatigue by the beginning of the twelfth month..

When we first arrived here in 1997, it seemed that Christmas had hardly been heard of.  The whole country geared itself up for the Sinterklaas celebrations, after which the sales started.  This meant that if you waited until December 6th to start your Christmas shopping, you could buy everything at 50% off!  The wiley Dutch though, never ones to miss an opportunity to make money, have since cottoned on to Christmas within the international community and now it’s huge here as well.

Traditionally, Sinterklaas, a caucasian bishopy-type, sails with his Moorish slave, Zwarte Piet,  from somewhere in Spain to the Netherlands, usually arriving two weeks prior to December 5th.  He disembarks from his boat, clambers upon his white horse and rides through the streets whilst Piet and his other helpers, (caucasians in black make-up dressed in Minstrel costumes) throw sweet treats to the children lining the streets to greet him.  On the night of 5 December, he goes around to every house.  He has a big book in which are written all the names of the children and whether they have been good or naughty.  If you have been a good little boy/girl, he leaves you a present in your clog, which you have left outside your bedroom door, along with a glass of milk (for him) and a carrot (for his horse.)


Woe betide you, however, if you are unfortunate enough to have erred on the side of naughtiness during the year, for Sint will beat you with his staff and then Piet will bundle you up in his sack and whisk you away back to Spain and set you to work!  In more recent years though, I think Sint has softened, no longer beating the naughty children and I believe that Piet has ceased his abduction activities.  The unfortunate ‘blacking up’ still takes place and is actually quite shocking to see.  There seems to be no objection to this bizarre process from anyone apart from the transient ‘ex-pat’ community, most of whom are astounded by it.

But back to Christmas.  As a child, I loved it and of course my parents made it very special for my sister and I as, I am sure, do most parents.   Somewhere into my teens, the shine faded somewhat and approaching my twenties the whole thing became a bit of a damp squib. Once the babies started arriving though, it all became wonderful again and I just can’t help loving it.  Every year I buy more deccies for our house which groans with the weight of them all.  The children are given a new decoration each, wrapped up and ready for them to hang on the tree, which we have selected from the seller on the corner and which we have walked home carrying it horizontally between us, the kids sucking on the bag of vile sweeties the tree seller always gives them.  I love the smell of pine that pervades the house when the tree first goes up.

Buying the Tree

Something I do confess to not enjoying during the festive period is Christmas shopping; you know, that aimless wandering around shops trying to think of something for everyone.  And the only job I truly hate, actually despise, is putting the lights on the tree.  I’m afraid I’m a little bit anal about it and won’t let anyone hang anything on the branches until the lights are just so.   Once it’s done though, we’re good to go!

Soon I’ll be making my new CD of Christmas songs to play in the car (but only as of 1st December!) on the way to school- or indeed on the way anywhere.  I don’t need the excuse of children in the back to listen to a bit of Dean Martin singing ‘Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow‘ …

So anyway, as I said, we’ll all be together in The Hague for Christmas.  My sister and her Tadpoles will be coming from Paris, my mother will be coming from deepest darkest Wiltshire and we’ll be here in The Hague, hoping for snow and lots of Christmas cheer.  I’m fortunate enough to work with a couple of Christmasophiles, one English and one Danish, and together we will be making sure that the spirit lives on in the office in the shape of sparkle, decorations and Secret Santas.

I can’t wait!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. livla permalink
    December 11, 2009 2:20 am

    i wish it would snow here 😦
    wow look at all those pressies under the tree! and how small little bobby looks, i miss him!

  2. purplejake permalink*
    December 13, 2009 8:02 pm

    We miss you guys like crazy, too! Just put the deccies up today and the house looks soooo cosy and Christmassy I could cry! What’s wrong with me? There must be a post in something that inspires so much emotion – I’m off to try and find my inspiration, which I seem to have left someplace recently. Can’t find it anywhere….

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