Day 5 of the twelve days of Christmas has arrived. Can you believe Christmas Eve is just a week away? It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. We even had our first snow of the year yesterday. Although snow is a big word for what little white stuff we saw yesterday. It melted before I even had a chance to try and make a fool of myself while biking.
Speaking of Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve isn’t part of the Christmas tradition here in Holland. I remember the first year I worked here. I was working at a big law firm and Christmas Eve was like any other day. I was highly disappointed. Since then, I’ve learned to live with it. (It helps that I work at home now and set my own hours.) I usually make plans with expat friends on Christmas Eve as I know I won’t be doing anything with my Dutch family or friends on that day. (Even the grocery store stays open, which is saying a lot in this country.)
Christmas in Holland consists of First Christmas Day (Eerste Kerstdag) and Second Christmas Day (Tweede Kerstdag). For those who are married, it works out well. You spend one day with your family and one day with your in-laws. For those who aren’t married or whose family lives in another country, you spend a day with family and a day with friends. You can also spend a day at a museum as most museums are open over the holiday. (We did New Year’s Day at the Gemeentemuseum Den Haag and had the place mostly to ourselves for the first two hours. It was great, except we were starving as there was no where open to have lunch.)
What do the Dutch actually do when they get together for Christmas? What they don’t do is a ton of presents. You won’t find Christmas trees buried under gifts in this country. After all, the Dutch have Sinterklaas who brings the kiddies presents at the start of December. The Dutch are very proud of their Sinterklaas tradition. If you ask, they’ll tell you that Santa Claus is based upon Sinterklaas. So, you won’t find Santa Claus climbing through chimneys here. Although with the popularity of Hollywood movies, some parents have started to give out gifts from Santa.
Adopting traditions of other countries is typical in the Netherlands. It’s a small country and open to other cultures. Case in point? The German tradition of Christmas markets has now been firmly embraced by the Dutch. In The Hague, there are several to visit. Personally, I’m happy the German tradition of gluhwein has arrived. I love me some mulled wine on a cold winter’s day.
So, what are we up to for Christmas? We’re spending Christmas Eve with friends while Christmas day is reserved for my in-laws. On Boxing Day, I look forward to visiting the museum. There’s an Alexej Von Jawlensky exhibit I’ve been dying to see.
What’s everyone else doing for the holiday (if you celebrate)?