Tag Archives: Traditions

Christmas Tag

Tags are a big thing on Dutch blogs, but I rarely see them on English-language blogs. I love them. Yesterday, finally, I found an English-language Christmas tag. I alreaddy filled a Dutch one in on my Dutch blog. It’s already 11PM on Christmas day, so I am rather late to the party, but I’d still love to fill this one out.

What’s your favourite Christmas movie?
Honestly, Home Alone is the only one I know and I haven’t even seen it in full. Back when I was a child, my parents and sister used to watch musicals on TV particularly on what in the UK is called boxing day and is called second Christmas day in the Netherlands. I particularly remember one called My Fair Lady, but didn’t like it.

Have you ever had a white Christmas?
I don’t remember. Googled it and the last white Christmas we had here in the Netherlands was in 2010, so yes.

How do you usually spend the holidays?
With my parents or in-laws usually.

What’s your favorite Christmas song?
It’s Gonna Be a Cold, Cold Christmas by Dana. I don’t mind most Christmas songs, although there isn’t any I really like. However, I don’t understand how people’s favorite can be Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christams Is You.

Do you open any presents on Christmas Eve?
No. We don’t give each other Christmas presents. This used to be because in the Netherlands, St. Nicholas on December 5 is a bigger hliday (although it’s losing ground). Now in my family we don’t celebrate this anymore either.

Can you name all of Santa’s reindeer?
No, I’m clueless about those.

What holiday traditions are you looking forward to this year?
I didn’t look forward to much and we don’t realy have traditions.

Is your tree real or fake?
We don’t have a tree at home, because our cat would climb it. On the ward, we have four fake trees.

What’s your ultimate Christmas treat/food/sweet?
I love most, but my all-time favorite is a type of cookie called cinnamon stars. I haven’t had them in years though.

Be honest! do you prefer giving or receiving presents?
Receiving. I find giving presents stressful, particularly thinking of what others might like.

What’s the best present you’ve ever received at Christmas?
Like I said, we don’t give out Christmas gifts. Besides, I have no idea what the best present I ever received was.

What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?
Allow me to stay home please. I don’t enjoy the lights or snow anyway.

Are you a pro present wrapper or do you fail miserably?
I don’t even try.

Most memorable Christmas moment?
I don’t know. I’d say last year’s Christmas gourmet with my in-laws, because that’s the first that comes to mind.

What made you realize the truth about Santa?
This is about St. Nick again. My father had recorded a tape one year in which Black Peter, Santa Clause’s helper, pretended to be stuck in the chimney. (Here, the traditional storyline goes that St. Nick and his Peters ride the rooftops and throw presents down the chimney.) When I had sort of realized the truth, Dad showed me the tape.

What makes the holidays special for you?
The food and nothing else. I hate the forced niceness and togetherness. I also don’t particularly like the decorations.

Hope you all had/have a nice Christmas and boxing day.

Valentine’s Day

Yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I didn’t get to write as I spent the afternoon and evening at my husband’s and the night rediscovering IRC chats. I didn’t know they are still active, or at least some of them, and I certainly didn’t know how to access them. Last time I tried, some years ago, I got some malware on my computer. Now I just went with a web client.

I honestly hadn’t expected my husband to come pick me up at all, since I thought he’d go visit a friend. I knew it was Valentine’s, but I didn’t think that was a big deal. But when I called on Friday because i’d badly screwed up my computer, he said he’d come and fix it.

We don’t really have Valentine’s Day traditions, or not that I know. I know in 2008, when my now husband had already told me he was in love but I hadn’t answered him yet, he sent me a card. It was really not a card, but a piece of paper brailled with some kind of sharp object in place of a slate and stylus. I couldn’t read it, but kept it on my nightstand for a few months at least anyway. Not really because I intended to, but it just happened.

Ironically, on the same day, I wrote this really embarrassing (for my husband, and probably it should be for me too) post on my old blog about my ideas about having a relationship. I’m not going to link to it, but it laid the foundation for the decisions we made early in our relationship, and possibly without that post, I wouldn’t have had the courage to enter a relationship. I just can’t express myself that well in direct contact, as the fact that I waited over a month to answer his E-mail about the post illustrates.

Each year for Valentine’s, I resolve to give my husband some special treat. Each year, I forget or get overwhelmed in the process. I remember probably in 2009 looking for somethign special and finding pepper-spiced dark chocolate online, but somehow not being able to order it. My husband on the other hand has given me chocolate probably actually every single Valentine’s. This year, they were chocolate flowers. Yummy! Maybe my husband being the romantic kind and me thanking him (on my blog!) has to be the tradition.

This year, in addition to my husband picking me up and giving me chocolate, we went to Domino’s to take out pizza. I didn’t even remember I’d told him I wanted to get pizza there someday, as we used to do sometimes when he still lived in the college dorm. It’d been on my mind recently too. I got one of my favorite pizzas, but no, not pepperoni this time.

One thing I hope won’t be a Valentine’s tradition is my husband having to fix my comptuer. He did, for which I’m hugely grateful. I just don’t want to make a tradition out of burdening him with my computer ignorance. Then again, I guess he’d be happy if I made a Valentine’s tradition out of it, if I just left it at that.

Mama’s Losin’ It

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St. Nicholas

I am still having difficulty getting inspired to write regularly on this blog. Ironically, I wrote six posts for my Dutch blog this week. Writing those posts gave me one idea to write about here – books I’ve read in 2014 -, but I’m too lazy to write that post.

I went on the SITS Girls website and looked at the prompts for December. Yesterday’s prompt asked if we celebrate with Santa Clause. Since St. Nicholas or Santa Clause is a particularly Dutch (and somewhat Belgian) tradition, at least in its most well-known form, I thought I’d write about that. A day late – or two, since the St. Nick’s celebration is on December 5 here -, but who cares?

St. Nicholas in some ways is like Christmas in the U.S., in that we swap gifts, there’s an old man with a white beard and a red coat involved and we eat lots of candy. There are specific St. Nicholas candies. For example, people often get a chocolate letter.

We used to celebrate St. Nicholas with my family rather than Christmas. At school, we also celebrated St. Nicholas in additon to Christmas. A tradition in many homes and classrooms is to package your gifts in a surprise package and to draw names to determine who has to gift to whom. Of course, you always thank “Santa Clause” and in some cases, who really gifted you will remain unknown to you forever. Like, I never found out who’d gifted me some chocolates packaged in a box that was made to look like a laptop in seventh grade.

At our home, we usually gave each of our family members a present, at least from the moment we were old enough to have some money for it and not believe that Santa Clause existed anymore. I hated the name-drawaing, surprise-gifting process and to my knowledge I managed to persuade (or tantrum) my parents into never adopting that tradition.

Another tradition which I couldn’t keep my parents from adopting was the Santa Clause poem. The most boring kind goes along the lines of “Santa thought long and hard what to gift dear Edward”. The best ones have some kind of moral advice in them and if they’re really good, they’re humorous too. It was usually easy to tell who had gifted me something by the quality of and tone in the poems. My mother was the one with the hugely moralizing poems, my father incorporated humor and some advice, and my sister would make up words in order to make the words rhyme. I hardly ever wrote poems and hated having to read the ones I got aloud. In fact, I hated the whole pretend play involved in Santa Clause once I was old enough to no longer believe he existed. I never went along with it.

Nonetheless, I liked celebrating Santa Clause, though possibly more for the gifts and a bit because we’d always done it this way than for any other reason. It did sadden me that we stopped celebrating St. Nicholas once I got into the psychiatric hospital. Now we visit my parents every other year for Christmas instead.

Halloween or St. Martin: My Experience (Includes Social Story)

This week’s spin cycle prompt is to write about your Halloween. Since we don’t celebrate Halloween much here in the Netherlands, and I certainly didn’t do anything for it this year, I have a hard time telling you about my Halloween specifically. We do have a similar celebration though, St. Martin, which is celebrated on NOvember 11. On St. Martin, kids go from door to door as on Halloween, only they carry a lantern and aren’t dressed up. They sing a St. Martin’s song and then get a treat.

I did follow a lot of Halloween-related posts over the past few weeks, and one was a Halloween-based social story (unfortunately, I forgot where I found it). For those not familiar with them, social stories are like little tales you tell kids with social-cognitive difficulties such as autism so that they know what to expect and how to behave in certain situations. They often include both written “instructions” and pictures. Reading this social story reminded me of my own most embarrassing St. Martin’s experience, when I could most definitely have used a social story.

I was about thirteen, which I think is way old for trick-or-treating, but my classmates were still going too and so was my younger sister. None of my classmates lived in my neihgborhood and my sister didn’t want me to go with her and her friends. I went alone, which was hard enough given that I’m blind and couldn’t always find the doorbell. However, the embarrassing thing was that, though I did start going from door to door at the same time my sister did, being alone, I had no clue when to return home. So at one point I had been trick-or-treating for I don’t know how long and I rang the umpteenth doorbell, and someone told me that I was way late and should be home by now. That sure was embarrassing!

Most Halloween-based social stories are catered towards younger children who can’t go from door to door independently, so they include stuff like “I will hold Mommy’s hand”. I realize however that for special needs kids especially, it may still be good to participate in Halloween or similar festivities when they’re older. Here is a St. Martin’s social story for those old enough to walk the neighborhood independently. You can modify the traditions and date to make it Halloween-based.

It is November 11, which is St. Martin. On St. Martin, kids go from door to door singing a song in exchange for candy. After dinner at 6:45, I get my lantern and get ready to go from door to door. I go outside at 7:00 and make sure to take my lantern and a bag for the candy I’ll get. I ring the neighbors’ doorbells. When they open the door, I show my lantern and sing one of the St. Martin’s songs I’ve been taught. Then the neighbors give me candy. I go to the neighbors in my own street only and finish off no later than 7:30. I am home no later than 7:45. I get to choose and eat one piece of candy tonight. St. Martin sure is a treat-filled celebration!

Racism and Black Peter

Last year, not for the first time but for the first time I did notice, debate sparked in the Netherlands about the St. Nicholas celebration and the color of “Zwarte Piet” (Black Peter), St Nick’s helper. I didn’t pay much attention to the debate, but when a number of my Facebook friends signed the “Pietition” to keep Black Peter black, I did so, too. I had never thought of Black Peter as referring to slavery. Possibly, it’s because I didn’t know that he was decorated rather steretoypcially with red lipstick, earrings, etc. More likely, it’s because I possess White privilege and I horribly neglect racism in my attempts at educating myself about minoriyt points of view.

Around the discussion last year, my husband introduced me to a point of view which said that apparently White people’s enjoyment of the tradition is more important than Black people’s dissatisfaction with it, and this is racist. We, and I include myself here, often say that Black people who complain are just “professional niggers” shouting “racism” at every opportunity to do so. Then again, I for one am pretty well-known for calling out ableism (discrimination of people with disabilities) at every opportunity at least on my blog.

I understand both points of view. White people insisting on tradition probably aren’t otherwise racist, rather more likely having trouble shifting perspective from their own privileged stance to the minority person’s. Of course Black Peter has got to be black, everyone knows this, because I’m in the majority here and I know. On the other hand, Black Peter does have a traditional helper role, which could easily be interpreted as a reference to slavery (and it is likely that the historical St. Nick had slaves too, though they may not have been Black). Tradition is important for many people, but can’t we shift it a little bit for some people’s comfort?

St. Nick will arrive in the Netherlands in Gouda on November 15 this year. The St. Nicholas committee has decided to include a majority of black Peters, but to include yellow-faced “Gouda cheese” Peters too. That way, they give both parties a little of what they want, but I doubt either will be satisfied. Particularly some people supporting traditionally black Peters have radicalized over the year a bit towards a more hostile form of racism rather than mere ignorance.

Mama’s Losin’ It