My favourite time of the year...
...well, that’s a tricky one. Seeing the Christmas lights being put up last week this line came into my mind immediately. As every season here in Haarlem has so many special moments in store I actually have several favourite times in the year, but seeing Haarlem illuminated is simply magical. And knowing that this marks the beginning of an extra cozy time with Sint Maarten, Sinterklaas and Christmas adds an extra sparkle.
Sint Maarten is the soft opening to the festive season, when you can count on (mostly) sweet little kids knocking on your door, proudly carrying handcrafted or shop-bought lanterns and ready to give their best shot at Sint Maarten songs.
You only have a few days before you are catapulted into Sinterklaas season, and hey, this one is exciting. With kids the right age you watch Sinterklaas arriving from his residency in Spain by boat, together with his horse and loads of friendly helpers called ‘Pieten’. The discussion about their skin colour is heated and ongoing, but this year most parties seem to compromise on what is called “Roetveegpieten”, meaning that the colour on their faces is acquired by climbing through the sooty chimneys while delivering presents. The arrival by boat is closely monitored by the “Sinterklaasjournaal”, which airs nightly from the time they supposedly leave Spain until the big day is finally there. You can count on frightening twists every year that keep the kids on their toes until it is clear that everything is going to end well and Sinterklaas and presents are going to be where they are supposed to be. In between, there are millions of activities for kids, you can meet the friendly Pieten and Sint basically everywhere and they are also kind enough to stop by at your house during the night with some little presents- at least if you keep your part of the deal and set your shoe together with a song, a carrot for the horse and a drawing to show your appreciation.
When Sinterklaas finally heads back home to relax for the remainder of the season, Christmas decorations are getting more prominent. Even if Sinterklaas still is a much bigger event than Christmas in the Netherlands, Christmas has its place and if you look through the windows into people’s homes at night, you’ll see beautifully decorated trees and lights everywhere.
To me, this is something especially wonderful about living here, the Dutch just have a knack for decorating and seem to be able to create a wonderful atmosphere almost effortlessly. And don’t get me started on the partying! So there is a lot to look forward to in the next couple of weeks- enjoy!