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Expat Blog which has been launched in 2005, provides information and advice to those living or wishing to live in the Netherlands.


The website was first launched as a directory of expatriates’ blogs all around the world. During 10 years of service, it has evolved into a real social network for expats in the Netherlands with new features added to better serve expats and address their needs.


This site has evolved and changed the whole layout lately.
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Expat.com is indeed a comprehensive and free tool to help you throughout your expat project.

Life in the Hague

Be kind to your children at Christmas…

 

Before Christmas – or the Holiday season – children get very tired. There are many things going on at school: tests, exams, assemblies and all kind of celebrations.

During this time of the year, schools observe an increase of injuries on the playground, children get easily sick and this all can take a heavy toll on the whole family.

One of our favourite poems for this season is “Be kind to your turkey this Christmas” by Benjamin Zephanaiah. I got inspired and composed this very short poem that I dedicate to all the parents (please be indulgent: English is my fourth language…).

I’d like to make it longer… so, here is my challenge for you: If you can come up with some lines, please add them in the comment.

I will add them in the most homogeneous way (I promise that I’ll do my best!) and re-publish the poem at Christmas on this site adding all your names.

 

Be kind to your children at Christmas

they’re doing their best and that’s enough

we all need a break

so do it for their sake:

take a moment and “see” them,

do listen and hug them

there’s a lot going on and it’s tough.

 (by Ute Limacher-Riebold ;-) )

Be kind to your children at Christmas,

they do so much to make you proud,

kids of an expat, linguistic acrobat!

take time to be there for them

praise and support them

expats are the best – shout it out loud!

(Chris Drew)

Savour every moment

Cherish every kiss

These are the things

One day you will miss

Laughter, tantrums, smiles and tears

Bring so much joy yet so many fears

The patience given and the kindness fed

Will contribute to good lives led

One day you will take a breath

And they will all have ventured beyond

Nurturing their fledglings in their own back pond

(Chantal Vasile)

 

 

 

Bildschirmfoto 2015-12-17 um 08.18.13

 

Which tradition do you maintain around Christmas?

I’ve recently had this discussion several times: which tradition do you maintain around Christmas, especially when you have a multicultural family or are living in a place where “things are done differently” from what you were used to when you were a child.

I must confess that it would never have crossed my mind to actually start doing anything related to Christmas already mid November before moving to the Netherlands. In the Netherlands, the most important celebration during this part of the year is Sinterklaas, not Christmas. And it starts with his arrival mid November, and goes on with his visits all over the country during the following weeks, until Pakjesavond on December the 5th.

In our family we decided to adopt this tradition as our aim is to integrate and embrace the culture of our host country. But we also wanted to maintain some of the traditions we liked from our childhood. So we ended up practically celebrating this season from mid November until the 6th of January. – It’s a long time…

So, every year we are excited upon Sinterklaas’ arrival, our children put their shoes near the chimney, hoping that some of the Zwarte Pieten will fill them over night with pepernoten or other delicacies, sometimes small cadautjes.

English: boterletter sinterklaas dutch traditi...

As we also want to keep some of the traditions my husband and I know and cherish from our childhood, we like to put up the Adventskalender. Each child usually gets one and opens a door every day starting from December 1rst.

40px|border|Flag Deutsch: Adventszeit in Luzer...

40px|border|Flag Deutsch: Adventszeit in Luzern: Adventskalender bei der Reussbrücke (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These two traditions are quite similar, both, the shoes and the advent calendar will give our children a surprise in the morning. – Will the shoe be filled? What am I going to receive or read (if it’s not a calendar filled with toys, sweets etc.) in my calendar? – If you combine them both, your children will get two “surprises” per day until Sinterklaas Pakjesavond, and then carry on with the Adventscalendar only until Christmas.

We will also celebrate Christmas on the 24th (and 25th-26th December), and, of course, La Befana or Heilige Dreikönige on the 6th of January.

The historical center of Schöckingen in Baden-...

The historical center of Schöckingen in Baden-Württemberg in Germany, with christmas illuminations. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usually our children receive the bigger presents at Sinterklaas and this for very obvious reasons: as we tend to travel and meet family at Christmas, we soon decided not to overload our car for those days and therefore we decided to offer our children the bigger presents at Sinterklaas and give them the opportunity to already play with them before Christmas. At Christmas then, they would receive books, clothes or items they “need” – which made more sense to me and is more the way I celebrated Christmas as a child.

As for the celebration of Sinterklaas, whose German/Swiss/Austrian equivalent Sankt Nikolaus is celebrated on the 6th, we decided to shift the celebration to the5th December, as this is the pakjesavond celebrated here in the Netherlands.

Then we celebrate Christmas on the 24th and 25th with family, with a great combination of different traditional meals, depending on where and with whom we’re celebrating.

And in January another celebration will close this festive season: on the 6th of January one would celebrate La Befana in Italy. When I was a child, this was the day when my fellow Italian friends would receive presents. Not at Christmas because that was the day where family would gather together and share festuous meals. The 6th of January was the day children would simmer with excitement – and a bit of fear as la Befana would bring choal to those children who were not so kind… And this is very similar to Sankt Nikolaus in Germany, whose partner, the Knecht Ruprecht or Schmutzli in Switzerland, would give them a rod (and sometimes “hit” them… ) if they weren’t behaving well the weeks before…

On the 6th of January we now celebrate the Heilige Drei Könige, the Three Wise Men, with sharing a cake with the typical Dreikönigskuchen or Gallette des Rois – like our Belgian and French neighbours.

What are the traditions you’re maintaining or adopting in your family?

The Christmas jumper…

Since we are living in a highly international environment, I am constantly fascinated by the different cultures, beliefs, traditions and even though I think that I “get it” most of the times, there are – now and then – details that I want to understand.
So, there comes the British “tradition” of wearing Christmas jumpers.
Although I can understand that (some) children could have fun wearing such items, I wonder what drives grown-ups to do so…

christmas_sweater

It is only since the 1980’s that these jumpers became popular “after a variety of television presenters such as Giles Brandreth and Timmy Mallett began wearing them during the Christmas holidays. In particular, their popularity may be attributed to the influence of singers such as Andy Williams and Val Doonican, who appeared in these type of jumpers in their television Christmas specials” (Wikipedia).

Apparently they were (or still are?) intended as gag-gifts and are more something people would feel embarassed with. Just think of Mark wearing one in Bridged Jones Diary… But it seems to be a tradition to wear them and even offer them:  even Harry gets one from Ron’s mum for the first Christmas at Hogwards.

It seems to be a quite recent tradition. Christmas jumpers gained camp during the 2010s and Amazon reported an increase in sales of 600% (!) in 2011. Now, celebrities buy them and there seems to even be  “Christmas Sweater Contests” held annually in the United States, where it’s all about who has the ugliest Christmas sweaters.

After The Daily Telegraph described them as a “must have” of the season in 2012, retailers started offering a vaste variety of these items, and even higher end fashion labels produce them (including Burberry and Jil Sander…). Apparently 41% of the British population ownes a Christmas themed jumper and is convinced that they are appealing: “A great sense of humour is always attractive and it’s fantastic to see that the nation has finally put aside its embarrassment of festive knitwear and embraced quirky Christmas jumper wearing.” (DailyMail)

Personally, I prefer associating this relatively new tradition with a fund raising charity, like the Christmas Jumper Day, run by Save the Children  each year in December, where people raises money for the charity by wearing their Christmas jumpers on a specific day.

Is Christmas Pudding having a new ally, the Christmas Jumper?

What do you think about this tradition?
Do you maybe own a Christmas Jumper? Or do you know any other culture that has a similar tradition?