I thought that – seeing as there is a Bank Holiday coming up I would tell you about the difference between the single Dutch Christmas I experienced and the English ones – as well as my all time favourite “Bank Holiday” of New Year – Dutch style.
When I was young my parents decided to ring the changes one year and go over to Holland for Christmas. This was before the commercialisation of Christmas had hit Holland – so the Dutch had “Sinterklaas” on 5 December, when they got their presents, followed by a quiet and somber Christmas, followed by “Oud en Nieuw” (or – New Year’s Eve).
There is one thing I still love about Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Holland. The Dutch go in for white Christmas Lights. So – when you drive on the motorway between Hoek van Holland and Rotterdam – you see what look like white fairylights strung along the edge of the motorway. (I was really disappointed when Dad ponted my “fairylights” out as we were driving to Hoek van Holland one day and all I saw were cranes.)
As I said at the beginning – my favourite “Bank Holiday” is New Year’s Eve – Dutch style.
Because my parents and I had Christmas with my English Grandparents at the proper time we did the present giving with my Oma (Dutch Grandma) on New Year’s Eve.
My two favourite things about a Dutch New Year’s Eve are food and fireworks. Put it this way – If you would like some indication of what the Bombardment of Rotterdam must have sounded like during World War II – go over to Rotterdam on New Year’s Eve. The best place to experience it (as I found out after Oma had died) is on the banks of the river Rotte – looking back towards the city centre. It looked fantastic with the fireworks and the laser show.
(To say the Dutch are fond of fireworks is something of an understatement. To say that they are not so keen on the crashes caused by the smoke hanging around the next morning is also a bit of an understatement).
I mentioned food didn’t I???
There is one foodstuff which is traditionally munched at New Year’s Eve in Holland – they even have TV programmes showing you how to make them. One memorable programme I saw on the subject of the best way to make “Oliebollen” involved a chipshop fryer and an ice cream scoop.
I had better explain what “Oliebollen” are, hadn’t I??? The literal translation of the name is “Oilballs”. What they actually are is the original fruit doughnuts. (Yes – Doughnuts originated in Holland.)
My Dad makes them at New Year’s Eve even now. This keeps the memories of both my Oma and my Mum alive.
In fact, I remember when I had my first New Year’s Eve over here after Oma had died. I walked around Leicester City Centre asking in different shops and supermarkets whether I could buy any Doughnuts. You can probably imagine the shop staff looking at me as though I had completely lost the plot???
I was pleasantly surprised when – at 11pm English time (Midnight Dutch time) – my Dad produced a plate of Oliebollen. We got some more at Midnight English time.
Sorry – did I forget to tell you that my parents and I celebrated the New Year twice (Dutch and English)??? My Dad and I still do.
Even though I haven’t been back over to Holland for New Year’s Eve for nearly 20 years my Dad and I still keep up the traditions associated with it.
The funny thing is that now the Dutch seem to have two “Christmas” times and the English seem to have two Guy Fawkes Nights. I am sorry but I think the English should leave New Year’s Eve fireworks to the Masters (Dutch).