Turning on the News a day in late november we were shocked. We were in the Netherlands and saw hordes of people waving and singing, jumping and dancing to greet a crowd of boys with black coloring in their faces followed by a bishop on top of a white horse. What was this? We did not figure it out for days. Then I was in hospital with our new-born and the bishop came again, handing out oranges. Curiouser and curiouser. Of course everyone was willing to tell me, when I started asking. It was Sinter Klaas, the turkish bishop, Saint Nicholas, who every year come from Spain with his entourage of moorish boys to hand out gifts for the good children. The original Santa Claus and lots of political incorrectness.
I asked and I studied and I pondered. To the Dutch this holiday had become the day of the big presents, family and lots of food. We saw no reason to adopt that. What we could do and what we did was to go back to the earlier tradition and adopt that. Since then Sinter Klaas has been celebrated every year in our family, and no one in Holland would recognize it as such, if they were not from a tiny farm a hundred years ago. It has been our way of introducing a Holiday Gift Concept that is not about how expensive everything is, but to find something suited for the recipient. As tradition tells, the night before the kids set their wooden shoes in front of the fire-place. The next morning we will have breakfast in our pajamas, with a roaring fire. Everyone gets “something to do, something to read and something to eat”. That is it. And as that is what the now grown kids expect from breakfasts around the fireplace, that is also what we do for stockings. Except for Christmas I add something to wear with a festive touch and either a Christmas decoration, or something funny. No fillers, no junk sweets, no junk nothing.
Of course I still have to buy or make it, but it is so much easier to do when you know you are buying four plaid pajama pants and four books and so on.
Have you ever tried being a foreigner? Say if you forgot everything anybody had told you about how thanksgiving or Christmas or birthdays was supposed to be celebrated, and could decide a new take on how you would do it? I love traditions, and as I also like playing with words I look at it this way.
Tradition comes from the latin word tradere which means to hand over.
As we grow we are allowed to and have to carry more and more of the bundle of things our forebears have put in that handover pile. I think our responsibility to the next generation is to know what we hand over to them. Traditions could be a great tool to remind each other of the things we do not know how to say. Traditions should enhance our values not exhaust us. Most of all traditions should be the joint effort of everyone it concerns, there is no priesthood for Christmas goddesses.
Which leaves us with the responsibility to add, to deduct to change and to enhance before we hand that Christmas bundle over.
Believe me, I know better than most how frantic and exhausting it is possible to make the season of peace and goodwill. The main story on Indexyourlife in December will be my way to a Christmas free of tangles.
In December my brother and I write an advent calendar blog together in norwegian.You may visit at JULEFRYD or Christmas Joy. This year we will be writing or sharing thoughts and joys of gifts, giving and sharing. We will post there every day, and I will share some of that blog here on indexyourlife too.
All pictures at Indexyourlife are mine, if not otherwise stated.