December brought the cold wind and freezing temperatures.
Every morning I bike to work as the day is getting a little lighter and come back home when it has gotten dark again. While at work in the shop I meet many friendly people: new parents who want to create new traditions with their little ones, even if they don’t really get who Sinterklaas or Santa are yet; elderly people telling me how they love the shop because it reminds them of when they were young, and they tell me how they celebrated Sinterklaas or Christmas; people getting excited about giving a present rather than receiving it,they choose carefully, doubting whether the recipient will like it or not.
December has always meant a lot to me: my birthday, Sinterklaas (the Dutch version of Santa, who gets here on the evening of the 5th of December), and Christmas recitals at school on Christmas Eve and hot milk with chestnuts around the bonfire in the village in Italy.
I am such a sucker for traditions. Unlike my family, I am really emotionally tied to them (otherwise they wouldn’t be tradition, would they?) and I miss them once they fade away.
As a child December started with Sinterklaas evening, on the 5th. After dinner Sinterklaas would knock on the door and we’d find lots of presents on the doorsteps. Every present would be accompanied by a poem in rhyme, and sometimes the poem would direct you outside where you’d had to follow clues to get to your present. There would also be hot chocolate, chocolate letters, pepernoten and speculaas.
Then, on the 9th, it was my birthday. Every year my parents woke me up by singing “Er is er een jarig, hoera, hoera!” and brought me tea or coffee on bed (depending on the age). They gave me a present, sometimes wrapped with Sinterklaas wrapping paper because they hadn’t decided beforehand which present would be for my birthday.
A few weeks later, on the 24th, Christmas Eve, I’d be spending the evening being nervous and excited because of the school’s recital. Being the shiest kid at school, I usually was one of the background angels singing, or the turkey the Little Match Girl dreams about while she’s starving and freezing to death. One year, the last year of Elementary school, I was the protagonist, I still am proud of that part, I was an awesome calendar, arguing with a clock on who was more important.
After the recital we’d go back to the village me and my family lived in. There always was a big bonfire in front of the church, everyone sitting around it, staring at the fire, while drinking hot milk and eating chestnuts.
These traditions slowly faded with the years. My parents didn’t really want t celebrate Sinterklaas, even though I would have loved to. My birthday lost a little the excitement I had when I was little, and Christmas isn’t celebrated around the fire anymore. Now christmas is in a totally different country, with other people around me. Fortunately these people remind me that traditions fade but new traditions can be created.
In fact, without even noticing, we have now celebrated our new version of Sinterklaas three years in a row. And although I am not sitting chatting with people around a bonfire with Christmas, I get to talk to people everyday at work, I get a glimpse of their lives, and then once I get off work, around Christmas, Roberto comes to pick me up and we go and have a glass of Mulled wine, however disgusting it might be, it is extremely heartwarming. Just like the awareness that we can create more traditions in the future.
What are your childhood traditions? Are you carrying them on or have you created new ones? I want to hear all of your stories!