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When I was a child and teenager I lived in Holland and Christmas was very different from how it is celebrated here in Australia. For my own family I have merged the two and made our own family tradition.
Christmas in Holland was firstly very cold as in for Australian standards. Most of the time no snow or ice, just grey skies, rain and often very windy - perfect for staying indoors. In the lead up to Christmas a lot of time was spent in decorating the house, this included a live tree which was decorated and every year a nativity stall was made out of aluminium foil to create a grotto. This was built into the side of the tree and the green branches poked through to make it look more attractive. (Remembering that it was winter and all the trees had lost their leaves and it was pretty bleak outside). My mother (who was quite religious) always also bought a Poinsettia (which was a small pot plant) that was incorporated in the grotto as well. (When my mother visited Australia she could not believe these plants just grew in the gardens and were taller than her :) A tea light was always lit in the grotto whilst we were awake, to make sure there was light.
Presents were not given (except to small children to keep them amused during the Christmas festivities). Present time in Holland is on the 5th December when the birthday of St. Nicolaas is celebrated. If you want to know more about this, here is a link.
On Christmas Eve, we would all go to the midnight mass - even my father would go (who was a staunch atheist) as it was a very special occasion with lots of singing and meeting everyone in the neighbourhood and wishing them Merry Christmas.
The next morning we all would get up late-ish and we would have a family brunch that would go to well after lunch time. The table would be laid out with all kinds of beautiful food and treats and of course some candles were lit at the table.
After lunch we used to play some board games (but not monopoly as that was kept for New Years Eve :) Then proceeding started for the final touches to the dinner (my mother and brother had been planning for weeks and cooking for days). The table was laid with the best crockery and glasses and many candles were put down the middle of the table - mainly candle sticks. The each table setting would get their own little candle and the children would get “special novelty candles” with which we could play with (in other words make drip) whilst we were waiting for the next course. Dinner would take quite a few hours from entree to dessert.
The rest of the evening was quiet as I think the adults had their fill for the day and we children would be very quiet to be able to stay up way past our bed time :)
I have no photos which is a bit of a shame, but no one thought at those times to take photos of Christmas decorations. It was just something we did every year.
This is probably one of the main reason that we (Happy Flame) now have so many little Christmas candles as they always remind me of the little special novelty candles we got as children for Christmas dinner.
If you want to have a look at our Christmas collection here is the link.
Merry Christmas to all of you and a very Happy New Year or Zalig Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Niew Jaar.