ERMELO, Gelderland, Netherlands – I’ve always loved snow, though I must
admit it’s much more fun to watch it from a nicely heated room than to
actually plow your way through it.
Christmas on the streets of Amsterdam.
Nelissen/Youth Journalism International
Indoctrinated by the perfect Christmas card images of little wooden houses
and pine trees that are heavy with a thick blanket of blinding white snow,
I’ve always thought of snow as something that makes for the perfect
Christmas atmosphere. Every year I hope it will be a white Christmas, but
here in the Netherlands, romantic Christmas snow more often than not remains
a distant dream.
It hardly ever snows here. Instead, most of the time we’re saddled with
rain, its more wet and less romantic counterpart. And when it does snow,
it’s not the crisp and immaculate kind you see on Christmas cards, but the
sort of wet snow that immediately turns all muddy and completely ruins your
Fortunately, there’s more to Christmas than just snow.
The Christmas card image is not completely lost here, as we do have pine
trees in abundance. Most people take one into their homes as a Christmas
tree. They decorate them with lights, Christmas balls and other decorations,
like “kerstkransjes.” These are cookies or chocolates with a hole in the
middle so they can be used as Christmas ornaments.
As it does for many people all over the world, Christmas offers many Dutch
people the opportunity to let out their inner decorator. Some go as far as
to turn their houses into glimmering and glittering Christmas palaces that
can probably be seen from space, while others believe just some subtle
lights will suffice.
Most children in the Netherlands don’t believe in Santa Claus, or the “Kerstman,”
as we call him, because we have Saint Nicholas, who brings their presents on
However, for most retailers this is by no means a reason to hold back with
Santa Claus decorations. As soon as the Saint Nicholas celebrations are
over, his decorations disappear to make a place for the Christmas frenzy.
At the small Christmas market in Ermelo, there was a meters-high inflatable
Santa, and shop windows heavily decorated with friendly-looking Santas,
accompanied by dumbfounded-looking reindeer.
In the Netherlands, we celebrate Christmas Eve and the two following days.
December 25 is called “Eerste Kerstdag” (First Christmas Day) and December
26 “Tweede Kerstdag” (Second Christmas Day, what would be Boxing Day in some
Some people go to church on Christmas Eve, while others just stay at home.
On Christmas Eve, most people have dinner together with their families. The
next two days are used to visit other relatives or to just have a good time
For most people, Christmas is a time to get together with family and enjoy
some quiet time.
I hope this year’s Christmas will bring snow, but I certainly don’t expect
too much of it. In a way, it doesn’t even matter that much. I love
Christmas, even when it’s just a little less than perfect.