Category Archives: The Hague

Our multicultural Christmas

Every country, every culture has it’s own ways to celebrate traditional festivities. Some families who live abroad adopt some of the local traditions and adapt them with those they know from their own childhood or from the other places they’ve lived.

Multicultural families need to agree not only on which festivities they want to celebrate but also on how to celebrate them. It’s a decision that involves extended family and friends too. This time of the year many internationally living families are getting inreasingly worried because they know that this topic will cause  friction with their loved ones.

I’ve experienced many changes in the way we celebrate Christmas in my family. My parents tried to maintain the German traditions while we were living in Italy. We had a Christmas wreath and an Adventskalender where we would open a “little door” every morning, starting from December 1rst until Christmas Eve, the 24th December, finding either little chocolates or some nice pictures (that would be illuminated when hold against a window or put in front of a candle or lamp), with the same effect of lighted windows you can find in Switzerland and Germany where houses are sometimes decorated like Advent calendars:

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

Over the years we adopted more and more elements of the Italian way of celebrating Christmas: panettone and torrone became as standard as Lebkuchen and Weihnachtsplätzchen and we would also prefer having fish instead of meat for Christmas dinner. We would have a presepe set up in our living room, but also an Adventskranz (Christmas wreath). – In the last 20 years our family traditions became more and more multicultural, mixing mainly Italian, German and Swiss and, for my family here in the Netherlands, also Dutch habits. These don’t only imply food and decorations, but also celebrations throughout this Christmas season.

A month full of celebrations…

In many European countries Christmas is not the only festivity this time of the year. On December the 5th or 6th we celebrate Sankt Nikolaus in Germany, Switzerland etc., and on January the 6th we celebrate la Befana in Italy and Dreikönige in Switzerland, Germany, France etc. On the 6th December children receive tangerines, nuts and small presents for Sankt Nikolaus and usually a little Sankt Nikolaus Lebkuchen (gingerbread) in Germany and Switzerland, whereas in the Netherlands this is the most importan celebration (see below). On the 6th January kids get candy if they were “good”, and “coal” if they were “bad”.

My husband grew up in Switzerland, and he recalls that Christmas season started (more or less) when they had a Grittibänz at Saint Martin (November 11th). Then Saint Nicholas followed, Christmas cookies were baked and the first Christmas Markets were set up.

Deutsch: Hefeteigmann (Grittibänz), ungebacken...

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Weihnachtsmarkt(1)

What to eat at Christmas…

Christmas is a time to celebrate thankfulness and togetherness and traditionally this is made by sharing meals. In Italy, Christmas is the most important celebration. Families would have a festive dinner on the vigilia di Natale (also called cenone di Natale) on Christmas Eve, December the 24th, where traditionally fish is served (after antipasti and primi). The birth of Jesus is celebrated on the 25th December by cooking festive meals that are followed by panettone (wich is similar to the German Weihnachtsstollen!), pandoro and torrone.

Bildschirmfoto 2012-12-18 um 20.16.10

In Germany, the traditional Christmas meal in my extended family was the Weihnachtsgans (goose; some prefer duck). My grandma served it with red cabbage and potatoe dumplings (find more recipes – in German! – here) after a soup, and Christmas cookies and Christstollen afterwards. – In our family in Italy, we used to have trout for lunch (after antipasti and primi) on the 25th, and some panettone, pandoro, torrone, Weihnachstplätzchen and Lebkuchen… Not all together, of course, but nicely devided over the Christmas holidays… Our Swiss family likes to celebrate with a raclette made with cheese, but meat is also a great alternative and this is very similar to the Dutch gourmetten.

When to open the presents…

In Switzerland, the Netherlands and Germany, the presents are handed out on Christmas eve (24th December). The family gathers around or in front of the Christmas tree and sing songs. Children play the piano, the flute or other instruments, and only after having sung Christmas carols all together, everyone opens their presents. – In Italy, like in the US, it is custom to receive the presents on the 25th. – In many multicultural families it is very difficult to agree on the way to celebrate Christmas, on how and when to hand presents. Is Father Christmas bringing the presents or are they offered by family members? My husband and I agreed that as long as our children believe in Father Christmas (Weihnachtsmann), he would be the one bringing the presents – like Sinterklaas a few weeks earlier. In order to have a smooth transition to the “reality” and less magical Christmas, once they’ll know the truth about Father Christmas, we let extended family offer personal presents, so that our children can thank them for their gifts. This combination of traditions is an important aspect of these celebrations which really needs to be agreed with the whole extended family in order to avoid misunderstandings and frictions.

What we celebrate now

Since we live in the Netherlands, our festive time of the year starts when Sinterklaas arrives to the Netherlands in his stoomboot end of November, and ends the 6th of January with the Heilige Dreikönige and the Befana. – Our children follow the whole story about Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten and zetten de schoenen almost every evening. When Sinterklaas returns to Spain on the 6th December, we start decorating our home for Christmas with symbols.

It is common practice to celebrate the Advent (from Lat. adventus “coming”) by lighting one candle every Sunday before Christmas, to symbolize the time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.

The readings for the first Sunday in Advent relate to the old testament patriarchs who were Christ’s ancestors, so some call the first advent candle that of hope. The readings for the second Sunday concern Christ’s birth in a manger and other prophecies, so the candle may be called of Bethlehem, the way or of the prophets. The third Sunday, Gaudete Sunday after the first word of the introit (Philippians 4:4), is celebrated with rose-colored vestments similar to Laetare Sunday at the middle point of Lent. The readings relate to St. John the Baptist, and the rose candle may be called of joy or of the shepherds.(…) The readings for the fourth Sunday relate to the annunciation of Christ’s birth, so the candle may be known as the Angel’s candle. (cfr. Wikipedia)

 Advent(1)

Once the advent wreath is in its place, we slowly add a few decorations like candles, the winter scenery our children decided to set up some years ago (and we add some details every year) and a presepe.

NLChristmas Presepe

How we are going to celebrate Christmas this year

This year we’ll celebrate Christmas in the Netherlands. The past we’ve mainly been travelling during this time and this year I really wanted to stay put.

This year, my parents will come to visit and we’re all very excited to have them! We have made plans about what we want to do  with them. Christmas, for me, means to spend time together, to focus on one another and enjoy the festive atmosphere. I like the smell of Christmas: the mix of cinnamon, candles, hot chocolate, sometimes Glühwein, Lebkuchen, roasted almonds and marroni. We’ll have a cenone di Natale with antipasti and fish, and on the 25th we’ll do like the locals and opt for gourmetten: similar to the Swiss raclette, fish, meat and vegetables are cooked on small stoves directly at the table and everyone can serve himself. Or we’ll make a fondue… Our children will open their presents on Christmas Eve and we’ll enjoy the erste Weihnachtsfeiertag by having a great festive lunch and going for a long walk maybe at the beach.

©expatsinebirth2014

©expatsinebirth2014

This year my children will get to decorate the Christmas tree with their grandpa. We’re all not getting any younger and I want this Christmas to be a time to build memories. Christmas is the time of the year where we not only are aware of the beginning of an era – a new year! – but also of the ending of one… For me Christmas is a mix of feelings: some sadness about the year that passed, friends who left, but also the excitement about the new. In German there is a nice word for it: Besinnlichkeit. In some countries people have just celebrated Thanksgiving and this spirit of being grateful and thankful for me is the spirit of Christmas that I want my children to associate with this time of the year. I think this is the heritage I want them to have. No matter how and where they’ll celebrate their future Christmases: I would love them to focus on this Christmas feeling.

Candle and decoration on a German Christmas tree

Candle and decoration on a German Christmas tree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I know it’s still a few more days until Christmas, but I’d like to wish you all a besinnliche Weihnachtszeit (“reflective Holiday Season”), un buon Natale, un joyeux Noël, en gueti Wienachtsziit, Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad, Boas Festas and een vrolijk Kerstfeest!

This post is part of the Multicultural Kid Blogs ‘Christmas In Different Lands’ series. Each day of December up until the 25th a different blogger around the world shares a part of their family Christmas.

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Today is Prinsjesdag in The Hague! The Golden Carriage Procession or the official start of the new session of Parliament

The Golden Carriage on Prinsjesdag in The Hague

The Golden Carriage on Prinsjesdag in The Hague (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every year, on the third Tuesday of September, the Dutch monarch rides from Palace Noordeinde to the Ridderzaal (Hall of Knights) in the Binnenhof. This day is called the “Prinsjesdag” and it’s one of the biggest events of the year in The Hague.

Foto.JPG

(© expatsincebirth: Prinsjesdag 2013: Gouden Koets with King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima)

The occasion is prescribed by the constitution, article 65 of which states:

A statement of the policy to be pursued by the Government shall be given by or on behalf of the King before a joint session of the two Houses of the States-General that shall be held every year on the third Tuesday in September or on such earlier date as may be prescribed by Act of Parliament.

At the stroke of one (at exactly 13:00) the King, accompanied by other members of the royal family, will depart from Noordeinde Palace in a procession along a given route (see here below) along the Lange Voorhout. Alongside the Lange Voorhout will be erected different stands offering a view at the golden carriage.

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Throne of the netherlands

Once the procession arrives at the Binnenhof, where members of both chambers of Parliament will be present, a Troonrede “Speech from  the Throne” is read. “In his capacity of (formal) head of the Government he announces the plans for the new parliamentary year. The King’s Speech is not written by the King, but by the Prime Minister and the cabinet.” (wikipedia)

Some of the major issues the Parliament will have to address during the first following sessions will be mentioned overtly and “the crown will then ask for cooperation among the chambers to work toward a resolution of those issues. When the speech is given, the new session of Parliament is considered officially started, and the monarch returns to Palace Noordeinde“.

When the Speech is finished, the speaker of the Senate proclaims “Lang leve de koning!” (“Long live the King!”) which is answered by everyone present with “Hoera! Hoera! Hoera!”: This brings an end to the joint session of the two houses. The ushers escort the King and members of the Royal House to the door. The president then closes the session.

The golden carriage will return the same route and pass through Lange Voorhout around 14:00, followed by a short appearance of the royal family on the balcony of Noordeinde Palace.

This year it will be the first time for the new King Willem Alexander and Queen Maxima to make their first ride in the “Gouden Koets” (the golden carriage).

The history of Prinsjesdag

Prinsjesdag was originally celebrated in the 18th century on the 8th of March, the birthday of Prince William V. It was one of the country’s most popular public holidays. Between 1780 and 1797 (the “Patriot era” which lead up to the Batavian revolution) at Prinsjesdag “was used to demonstrations of loyalty to the House of Orange, which is probably why the current name was chosen in the 19th century for the ceremonial opening of parliament”.

William V, Prince of Orange

William V, Prince of Orange (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The constitution has stated that the opening of parliament should take place on a fixed date. “The opening of parliament was originally held on the first Monday in November in the first half of the 19th century”. Later it sllipped to the the third Monday in October and when a “constitutional revision introduced annual budgets in 1848, more time was needed to debate the budget, so the date was brought forward a month. Monday was considered inappropriate, because many parliamentarians in distant parts of the country needed to leave their homes on Sunday to make it to The Hague in time, so an 1887 revision moved Prinsjesdag to Tuesday”. (cfr. ibidem wikipedia)

“Throughout the years 1815 to 1904, the speech from the throne was given in the assembly room of the House of Representatives, but was moved back to the Hall of Knights after an extensive restoration of the building at the start of the 20th century.”

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If you are in The Hague these days, don’t miss other related events (cfr. courtesy of southholland.angloinfo.com):

  • Sun, 15 Sept 16:00: Prinsjes Concert by the New Dutch Academy at Haagse en Friese Hof.
  • Mon, 16 Sept 20:15: Prinsjes Caberet at Theater Diligentia (Lange Voorhout)
  • Tue, 17 Sept 15:00: Prinsjes Guided Shopping Tour (city center)
  • Tue, 17 Sept 20:15: Prinsjes Drinks at Super Markt (Grote Markt)

One year expatsincebirth

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Yes, today is my blogs’ first anniversary! It’s been exactly a year since I published my first post and I have to say that I really enjoyed writing every single post.

I’ve started blogging one year ago because I had written about many topics just “for me” and wanted to share them somewhere. To write a book about them seemed very appealing but then I realized that I covered so many different topics, that it would have been like a jack of all trades device. A friend gave me the idea to try to write a blog. But it was a few months later, when another friend told me the same, that I really started blogging. It was during our holiday in Switzerland that I choose the name and the main cathegories I would write about.

Selecting a name for my blog didn’t take that much time. My status as an expat-since-birth did pretty much sum up the topics. I did evaluate the different definitions of Third Culture Kids, Adult Third Culture Kids, Global Nomads etc.  in a post called “expat definition maze” but couldn’t find really a cathegory I could fit in, so I created my own one: expatsincebirth.

About multilingualism:

The knowledge I acquired during my studies about bilingualism and multilingualism brought me to write several posts about these topics in the cathegory being multilingual. As a multilingual person, my home are my languages and when I got children, I had to choose which language to speak to them in our multilingual family. With the  “secret language among (my) twins” I introduced the complex linguistic situation within our family. After pointing our the different definitions of OPOL I wrote about OPOL among multilingual siblings.

I find it pretty interesting that multilingual siblings don’t necessarily have the same language preference and that the initial language plan we usually make when our children are still babies, can change for several reasons when they get older.

There are many myths about bilingualism. I didn’t want to list them all up. There are already many posts and literature about this. But one in particular did intrigue me. It’s about multilinguals having multiple personalities. I’m still collecting answers about this in order to write a paper about it. – You’re very welcome to leave a comment on my post about this.

And then there is the myth about code switching being a sign of weakness. Well, it is not, on the contrary: Don’t worry if your child does code-switching!

Those who know me, know that I’m firmly convinced that reading is very important. And it is even more important for multilingual children to read in the different languages they grow up with. For those who don’t like to read, I wrote a post about how to make our children like poetry (and songs!).

Learning new languages for expats is not always that easy. But there are some tips that can help. I did point out the five more important ones that worked for me and added another post with tips how to encourage children to learn the local language.

There are many reasons to become multilingual at any stage. We don’t have to start at a young age to become multilingual. I shared my multilingual journey and pointed out that the most important thing is to be willing to learn new languages: “When there’s a will, there’s a way to become multilingual“.

About parenting:

In my posts about parenting I tried to give some practical advices. Some more will follow but up to now I gave some advices for when the children have the flu and I shared a first-aid experience I had this summer with one of my daughters, trying to remind other parents about refreshing their First Aid skills regularly.

In the colder period of the year Indoor activities for children become more important and role plays can be fun also for the older ones.

I’m not an over protective parent and like the  Love and Logic approach in parenting which consists also in doing lot of questioning in order to make the children take their own decisions from a very early stage. Also helping less helps our children more than we sometimes think, and it helps us too to realize how independent they can be (even as toddlers).

I’m very interested in e-safety for parents and children and the resources that are available about this topic. I published a few posts about  “How to reduce screen time for children” and about “mobile phones for children“.

The importance to spend one-on-one time with our children and how to manage if you have more than one child is very important in my daily life with my kids. “How to make children listen to us and how to listen to them” and “communicating is listening with empathy” are two posts where I point out the importance of effective communication with our children.

I got a bit annoyed by posts called “What not to say…” and decided to post some about “What to say”: “to parents of a child with a disability” and to a “mum of twins” because I prefer positive reinforcement.

I didn’t write a lot about twins yet, but I’m preparing a whole series about twins “from baby to teen”. The first post about this is called “Twins at school: once separated always separated?

When we spend holidays with our children we sometimes don’t really get to enjoy them as much as we would like. By giving them some chores we can easily get some holiday feeling too.

In order to lead a happier life, despite of all the movings, the changes and having many tasks around our kids, families and work, I wrote a post about the fact that our happiness depends on our selves: if we decide to be happy and take action we will succeed.

As I’m raising my children in a multicultural context and see many different parenting styles every day and I’m really fascinated in the different parenting styles across cultures I wanted to find some answers to the question “Do you think the cultures you’ve been in touch with did influence you in your parenting style?“. I’m still collecting feedbacks which I will publish in a paper. You’re very welcome to leave a comment on the post.

About expat life

I did publish several posts about expat life in general and some specific ones about the Netherlands and Switzerland. I will add some more about Germany and Italy, and maybe some other countries.

About ATCK’s raising TCK’s

Lately I got involved in several discussions about ATCK’s and TCK’s and joined several TCK groups online. I’m planning to write a small book about this and am preparing a questionnaire for ATCK’s (Adult Third Culture Kids) that I’ll soon publish on my blog.

I found out that TCK’s (and expats, global nomads etc.) often “tend to “start cutting bonds around 3 years into a friendship”” and that three is a magic number for TCK’s. Other topics in this cathegory are the good-byes, the ways “people call you“, the impossible question about “where is home” that TCK’s don’t like to be asked and “what kind of memories our kids will share with us“.

If you are interested to participate in my ATCK survey, please leave a message in the responses of my post “Are you an ATCK raising TCK’s” and I’ll get in touch with you.

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The most satisfying aspect of running the blog in this first year has been interacting with bloggers and parents from around the world. I found many like minded persons and am having really interesting conversations with people around the globe that I’m really grateful to have found this bloggosphere.

 I’ve joined several groups on the internet and met some of them also in real life. The Multicultural Kid Blogs group on Facebook did even start a own blog that I strongly recommend. Then there are the fb groups Mum knows Mum, Third Culture Kids Netherlands, Expats in The Hague which meet regularly and Third Culture Kids Everywhere etc. that all give me very interesting ideas and inputs for posts.

I would like to thank all my followers for joining my blog and for leaving very interesting comments! The almost immediate response to my writings is amazing and all your feedbacks are very precious to me.

Van harte bedankt – Vielen herzlichen Dank – Con un grazie di cuore –

With a heartfelt thank you – Merci de tout coeur – Gracias de todo corazon!

A summer in the city of The Hague in 2013

If you are going to spend your summer holidays in the The Hague area and are looking for some activities for your kids, here is a list with what you can do.

Vakantiepas

You can try to get a vakantiepas for your children. It is a booklet  which contains discounts for all kinds of fun summer activities in The Hague and surroundings, a sort of “passport to the summer holidays”. You can also buy a vakantiepas “for friends and family members up to the age of 12 who live outside of The Hague”.

Activities for children and play areas

On this site you can find plenty of activities for kids. If you are looking for guided activities where your children can learn some outdoor skills, like building with wood (small houses, castles etc.) there are several buitenspeelplaatsen (outdoor playgrounds). There is always an EHBO (Erste Hulp Bij Ongelukken: “First Aid Helper”) present on these playgrounds. – Unfortunately I couldn’t find an english translation for this page (some vocabulary: “dagelijks”: every day; “behalve”: except; if you need more help on this site, just let me know and I’ll translate it for you). You can sign them up (“aanmelden”) on the same page.

The Hague has more than 400 play areas throughout the city. Please find some of them highlighted here.

The biggest attraction and outdoor playground is the beach. On the 11 km coastline between Kijkduin and Scheveningen you can also have beautiful walks through the dunes. The beachclubs between Kijkduin, Scheveningen , Wassenaar and Noordwijk you can chill, relax and eat the whole day until the sunset.

Beach2013

Please check out this article, published after this post on DutchNews about the beaches in the Netherlands.

The Hague has also 17  parks and recreational areas where you can walk, play and just relax. On the Dutch municipal homepage you can find more informations about the beautiful parks.

Park Clingendael, Den Haag

Park Clingendael, Den Haag (Photo credit: ekenitr)

And if you like your children to play in the nature and you don’t mind to go a bit outside The Hague area, there are  Speelpolders, where your children can play for free during the whole year (as there are some canals etc, be sure to stay close to your children).

Camps for children

If you are looking for camps for children from 4 to 14 years, you’ll find multi-sportcamps, surfcamps, tenniscamps, a 5 extreme camp and dutch learning modules on this site. The first is from July 22nd until July 26th and the second from August 19th until August 23rd.

Outings in The Hague area

If you are just looking for some outings in The Hague and surroundings, you can find some hints in my post A few cultural outings in The Hague area and a list with the actual exhibitions here.

Kids Tour in The Hague

The Hague offers also two tours for kids. One tour is a cycling tour through the city of The Hague and takes you to the Peace Palast, Humanity House, Plein and Lange Voorhout. The other tour is a walking tour through The Hague’s International Zone. You can find a new version of the Kids Tour on the site as downloadable pdf file.

“The Kids Tour was developed on behalf of The Hague Bridge, a programme initiated by the City of The Hague. The Hague Bridge project brings together local residents (Hagenaars) and expats and better acquaints local residents with the international city.”

The Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, wh...

The Peace Palace in
The Hague, Netherlands, which is the seat of the International Court of
Justice. Français : Le Palais de la Paix, siège de la Cour
internationale de Justice à La Haye (Pays-Bas). (Photo credit:
Wikipedia)