What is a tradition?

Tradition by definition is the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends, customs, information, etc., from generation to generation, especially by word of mouth or by practice. A story that has come down to us by popular tradition. (dictionary definition)
So when does a habit become a tradition? How many times does it take to perform a habit before it’s called a tradition? Or should we just accept and enjoy!

Embrace it and enter the fantasy land!
Living in another country brings with it a whole new set of traditions to get accustomed to. It can be compared to entering into a sort of fairytale – fantasy land, where new and exciting sights, smells, and sounds are fused with a strange and eccentric way of life – one that is quite different from what you’re used to. If you embrace it, it can be one of the most exhilarating experiences ever. However, it can also be intimidating to the uninitiated!!

If you’re not properly prepared, you could find yourself confused by some of their common cultural tendencies. Welcome to the Netherlands

The good, the bad and the ugly!
Here’s just a few of the Dutch traditions I’d like to share. I must confess that I don’t embrace them all, but I’ve certainly tried them all. Here’s just a flavour …

Sprinkles, sprinkles everywhere
Yes, the Dutch love their sprinkles – known as hagelslag. Hagelslag come in many varieties and flavours, and are usually consumed on bread. Like a sandwich filling! Yep, you heard that right!

Perhaps the most important, and odd, hagelslag consumption is associated with the Dutch birthing tradition – fondly referred to as Muisjes (mice). It consists of a Dutch beschuit (a twice baked piece of round toast), wack on some butter and cover with either pink (for a girl) or blue (for a boy) anise hagelslag and serve to guests visiting the new baby.

Interesting fact: To put all this sprinkle-eating madness into perspective, Dutch people are said to consume over 14 million kilos of hagelslag each year. That’s roughly the combined weight of 1,000 adult elephants! (source: Guide to Dutchness)

Sinterklaas and his helpers (Zwarte Piet)
The Dutch celebrate the Feast of Sinterklaas honoring the life of St. Nicholas (the patron saint of children). Every year, about three weeks before December 5th, Sinterklaas and his band of helpers (Zwarte Piet) arrive in the Netherlands from Spain by steamboat. Many cities and towns reenact the arrival (intocht) and the children get over excited that Sinterklaas has finally arrived. During the build up to December 5th, children leave their shoe out overnight at home in anticipation of receiving a gift in it the next morning. BUT only if they’ve been good! Otherwise the Zwarte Piet will visit and put them in a sack and take them back to Spain! I guess that’s one way of controlling your kids during the festive season!!

On December 5, Sinterklaasavond, children anxiously wait for Sinterklaas to knock on their door (usually a family member) – leaving behind a sack full of presents … BUT only if they’ve been good!

Kings Day celebrations – it’s an orange-fest
The Dutch seem to be a sensible bunch with a good sense of responsibility … or so you thought until Kingsday comes along!! Koningsdag or King’s Day is a national holiday in the Netherlands. Celebrated on 27 April, the date marks the birth of King Willem-Alexander. Until the abdication of Queen Beatrix in 2013, the holiday was known as Koninginnedag or Queen’s Day and was celebrated on 30 April.
Let’s just say the Dutch are masters of party, dressing up and music – all with a side order of orange. It’s well worth a try!

Carnaval – Any excuse to dress up and drink beer!
Carnaval (Carnival) is a tradition loved by most Dutchies. I’ve tried my fair share! They travel to the ‘south’ don their costumes and get they’re drink on!! The roots of Carnaval stem from the Catholic period preceding Lent, the ‘feast’ before the ‘fast’ – and happens in February depending on how the dates fall. Every year it seems to last for longer and longer (I’m just getting older!) The carnival festivities usually begin with the optoch (procession with floats lavishly decorated). It then continues with oompah-oompah music and LOTS of beer and dressing up. Although traditionally a festivity for the Catholic south (the farmers), the party is slowly spreading northwards. Think Mardi Gras or Rio – but then without the naked flesh and the sun!

OK, so the Dutch are a nation of eating weird things, dressing up and partying. Well it could be worse!

Until next time

Kirsty xxx

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