A Jolly Holiday
Christmas is now behind us and for some, it’s a relief – I am ready to move on as well. I have never celebrated Christmas in my adulthood as much as this year. We embraced the festive spirit as of mid-November and have done many holiday activities. Here is how we celebrated Christmas in 2017:
Singing Christmas carols
We always kick-off the holiday season with music. We played on repeat Pentatonix’s Christmas playlist. Each year, they release a new Christmas album. Although we are not believers, our favorite song from their latest record is “How great thou art”. This timeless song features Jennifer Hudson, who sings so beautifully, you will have goosebumps. I am also a huge fan of Sia and have fallen in love with her album Everyday is Christmas, especially her melancholic song “Snowman”. Her voice and lyrics are poetic.
B’s father offered us a case of glühwein in Germany. It was a special white mulled-wine infused with apple and spices, and tasted similar to apple cider. I occasionally drank some in the middle of the afternoon on weekdays ‒ don’t worry, I was working from home!
… and a lot of Chocomel…
Chocomel is a famous brand of chocolate milk in the Netherlands. It is deliciously rich in chocolate (and fat) and even better with whipped cream. We made a small stock for the holidays and I proudly restrained my consumption, at the mercy of glühwein.
… in our polar bear cups!
I avoid branded-merchandising items as much as possible, but I couldn't resist these cute mugs from Starbucks. I initially discovered them in Rotterdam, to my regret they were sold out the next day. Two weeks later, I found them again at a gas station on our way to a Christmas market. It was a sign so I immediately snagged them.
Wearing Christmas sweaters
Choosing our Christmas tree
B is Dutch of German descent and takes our Christmas tree very very seriously. It has to be real, full and beautifully-decorated. For the second year in a row, we went to Rijswijk to pick our tree at the Kerstbomenland on the quiet night of Saint-Nicolas:
B had done his homework rigorously and measured the space in our living room beforehand. We chose a tall tree that turned out to be too wide for our space, it ended up hiding our fireplace. B decorated it, whereas I chose the theme colors: white and gold. I only decorated our small outdoor tree with glittery pink ornaments ‒ sadly, this color was judged unacceptable by B for indoors.
Decorating our home
This plant brightened our dining room this season. We also burned some crackling candles that we bought a year ago in Edam. Our favorite decoration were three little star lights that B hung above our living room window. His grandma gave him these shining stars.
Playing in the snow like children
A snow storm hit us on December 10. Our street was covered in 15-20 cm of snow, it was magical! This country is not prepared for such weather, hence it was a mess (cancelled transportation, slushy roads, cancelled school, etc.) but we happily made the most out of it.
On the first day of snow, we drove to Wassenaar to eat pannenkoeken (pancakes) and to wander around. This was the best decision that we've made to enjoy the snow because jewel homes are hidden in this neighborhood, and it was a winter wonderland!
On the second day of snow, we worked from home to avoid traffic. We dressed up in warm clothes and went for an evening walk close to the Haagse Bos. We had a gentle snowball fight, then B built a snowman. My hands were frozen and the next day, I was in bed with a never-ending cold.
Visiting Christmas markets
We discovered three markets this year:
- Christmas fair at Kasteel de Haar
It is by far my favorite Christmas market in the Netherlands. Although the €20 entrance fees are expensive, it is worth a detour. There were countless stands around the castle ‒ mainly small local businesses, and it took us a couple of hours to walk through the fair. We came home with a lot of goods: cheese, saucisson, ribbons, socks and some home decoration.
- Magical Maastricht Christmas market
It’s a smaller market in front of the Vrijthof. There was nothing special about the stands, except for the festive ambiance, the international crowd and the light decorations. Maastricht is a picturesque city and offers good food, it’s always pleasant to walk and eat in the old center.
- Royal Christmas Fair in Den Haag
Every year, this market keeps on improving and increasing its size at the Lange Voorhout. We made a quick stop for a spontaneous dinner and live carols. The market was romantically-lit by night.
Creating a new tradition: Friendsgiving on Ugly Xmas Sweater Day
We hosted the first edition of "Friendsgiving" for B’s group of friends. Everybody made a dish and showed up with an ugly xmas sweater. Some couldn’t make it due to illness (I was sick myself) so we had to improvise for the dessert and gave a show with some easy bananes flambées.
Celebrating Friends Xmas Eve and a birthday: Merel-Christmas!
On December 24, I baked a banana bread (recipe) in the morning. We spent the rest of the day running a few errands and relaxing. We had an atypical Christmas Eve dinner with my brother, our friends Merel and Vasilis. We skipped the turkey (which is a tradition in my family) and had a raclette instead. We maintained the traditional bûche de Noël (yule log) for dessert, and turned it into a birthday cake for Merel. It was what we called a “Merel-Christmas”. We also played Secret Santa and poker. When our friends left, we changed into our matching flannel pajamas and unwrapped our Christmas gifts before playing a game of Risk.
Feasting on Christmas Day
We hosted B’s relatives and my brother for Christmas. We kept it low-key with a good dinner, Christmas crackers and a few rounds of Uno. I am so proud that our turkey (my first ever) turned out juicy to perfection! Our oven is not reliable yet it successfully delivered for this sacred meal of the year.
Binging on holiday movies
We enjoyed two Christmas movie nights with our friends, Rebecca and Jules, and saw Deck the halls and Miracle on 34th Street. Whenever I had some spare time, I watched some corny romantic Hallmark Christmas movies solo (I didn’t want any boys to comment and ruin them). So far, I managed to catch on Netflix:
- A Christmas Inheritance
- A Wish for Christmas
- The Spirit of Christmas
- Merry Kissmas
- Little Women and Jingle all the way ‒ unfinished, still working on them.
I’ll admit that many of them are cheesy and predictable, but I couldn’t help myself! Even though Christmas is officially over, I’ll continue watching more movies until the end of the year.
I battled a cold for several weeks and couldn't find the time to bake sugar cookies. B is a "cookie monster" and this year, he earned the role of "Cookie Baker." He made delicious chocolate chip cookies for his office Christmas lunch.
My energy is currently low from the festivities, nonetheless I am grateful for this season. We celebrated well, simply and intentionally with our friends and family. I sincerely hope that you had a joyful Christmas as well!