Once again I have taken much longer than the originally planned week to update this blog thing, mostly because I have been having an incredibly great time and things have been as always fairly busy. I am currently spending my Christmas in Luxembourg, but I think it will be easiest writing wise if I break the last month up into more than one post. So, starting where I left off...
December fifth was Sinterklaas in the Netherlands, which you may notice resembles Santa Claus a little bit. In fact, the name Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch Sinterklaas, despite the different dates of celebration. While Santa has a miniature slay, tiny reindeer, and lives at the North Pole, Sinterklaas rides around on a horse (which you are encouraged to leave a carrot out for), has a
What happens on Sinterklaas is in most ways fairly similar to what happens on Christmas for us Americans, though some of the details are different; for the week or so before Sinterklaas you get small chocolates or marzipan in your shoes, delivered by Black Pete (politically correct, his face is black from coming down the chimney). On Sinterklaas itself people exchange gifts which are said to be from "de Sint." In a sort of Secret Santa fashion, everyone gets a small, inexpensive gift (around 5 to 10 euros normally) for one other person, and writes a rhyming poem (rhyme scheme AABBCCDD etc. for those who care) describing their last year and which is signed by Sinterklaas. You eat pepernoten, which are rather like ginger bread but very small and round, chocolate letters, and speculaas (also like gingerbread).
My host family ended up celebrating Sinterklaas (which is on a Monday) the weekend before, so that everyone could be home for it, Saturday night we exchanged gifts in a long process; you go around in a circle and roll dice, whoever rolls an six can pick out a gift from the bag, and gives it to whoever it is for. Sunday we went to their grandparents house where the same process was repeated except only between the grand children. I myself received a great deal of chocolate and some beautiful dutch clog shaped slippers (that was sarcastic, they are incredibly dorky but I was in need of slippers, and certainly are funny). The only downside to the celebrations was that on Sunday I was quite ill, so after getting back from their grandparents (around 4pm) went promptly asleep until late the next morning, and seem to have gotten a long lasting cold which has by now mostly gone away.
So that was my first weekend in december, the first of four very busy ones.
More to follow, hopefully soon!