Monday, December 26, 2005

Kerst 2005

Kerst [also Kerstmis] means Christmas.

It snowed today, 26th, the second day of Christmas... but jammer the snow didn’t stay that long to make the country white, even for the whole day.

Christmas Today in NL

Unlike most [or once] Christian countries, where the 24th, the eve of Christmas, is the most anticipated and important moment that people celebrate, here in the Netherlands it is not the case. In fact people here commemorate Christmas for two days, the 25th and the 26th of December. Both are equally significant days and are spent with family having afternoon tea and partaking with the popular and lavish Christmas dinner. The latter is usually observed on the 25th, the first day of Christmas.

So yesterday, the 25th, the Dutchman and I had afternoon tea and dinner with the whole family in my sister in laws home.

My sister in laws Christmas tree, a real spruce tree from the north adorned with red balls and trinkets. And voila, the grand dessert [thats a pear in the middle coated with melted dark chocolate and rounded with portions of sumptuous cakes and ice cream] made by my brother in law. I only finished half of it though.

And contrary to the popular western belief, giving of gifts during Christmas is not at all practiced here in the Netherlands. Gift giving has its own special day, observed on 5 December, the eve of Sinterklaas [Santa Claus birthday].

Christmas in the flatlands is evidently the perfect time for family members to be reunited and spend a fabulous time together, Christian, atheist, or whatever belief you have.

The second day of Christmas though, which is the 26th, is strangely spent shopping or at least visiting the woon boulevard [home boulevard]. This is to some extent the same concept as the Boxing Day in England, also observed on the same day. I have no idea though how this practice of shopping on the 26th day came to life.

Anyway, the Dutchman and I went to the home boulevard, hoping to find some shops that are offering great discounts, instead this is what greeted us...

Santa’s Quartet Band in Utrecht home boulevard was non-stop serenading all the shoppers in the streets.

Urban planning such as zoning is strictly complied in this small country, thus furniture shops and anything that caters to home related items are all located in an area that is called, woon boulevard [home boulevard]. Quite organized huh. They are found in every city and province in the Netherlands.

Religious Christmas in NL

I was told that the traditional Dutch Catholics, which are at present a minority here, since there are more Calvinists and about 60% are self proclaimed atheists, observe a similar ritual that we have back in the Philippines. On the 24th, the eve of Christmas, they go to the Catholic Church to attend the “Nachtmis” [night mass/simbang gabi] and afterwards they come home and have a special dinner [something like the noche buena]. The Dutchman and his family used to do this when they were young and living with their parents. His parents however still keep this tradition alive.

The Calvinists from the Reformed Protestant Church on the other hand just nurture the holidays with family get togethers during Christmas.

I spoke to a Muslim guy who bought a Christmas tree for his kid. He told me that he is not really celebrating Christmas per se for its sake but mainly because his little boy fancies the Christmas tree. Additionally he said that he can’t deny the fact that he liked the feast and the holiday mood that goes with it. I enlightened him that decorating his home with the Christmas tree has nothing to do with Christ at all.

Christmas a cover-up

Since I do not advocate to any organized religion, I tend to see Christmas as a year ending feast. In fact, the way I see it is quite similar to the real story behind Christmas and the origins of its feasts.

The decorations such as the beautiful and lushful evergreen boughs, mistletoes, garlands, yule logs, wreaths, Christmas trees... then you have the lights, banquets and the merriment during the end of December have always been a practice in Europe [and also the Middle East] before Jesus Christ came and before the Catholic Church instituted itself in Rome.

I didn’t have a remembrance picture with my fake Christmas tree so I asked the Dutchman to take this today before we had our second day of Christmas dinner. Too bad, the golden peak of the tree was cut when he took the picture.

December was a merry month with many festivals that reveres pagan gods and persuade fertility beliefs. For others, it was to welcome the winter solstice, celebrate the year end and its mid-winter harvests.

What we now witness in our present time is a historical metamorphosis of the Christmas cover up as legislated by the Catholic Church sometime during the middle ages and the famous saying, “Bad habits, die hard.” The Protestants are no better though, as they continued to keep the same habits but with a little bit of gist twitching here and there.

Besides, let’s give credit to where it is due. The Catholic Church, I must say, is indeed one of the greatest institutions in this world that has always managed to influence or as others would say, manipulate history. It sure was successful in integrating [or intentionally casting a shadow over the] pagan rites and customs into Christendom. The odd truth: Jesus Christ was born sometime in September and not December.

People may argue that it’s the thought that counts. Ah, what else can we say, religious tolerance undeniably is being politically correct and of course it has its own fair share of tainted truths hidden in the vaults of world history.

Origins of some Christmas Customs


End of the year feasts and merrymaking [ancient Babylon]; December pagan gods feasts [Italy, Germany, England Celts, Scandinavia]; Fertility feasts [England, Scandinavia]; Mistletoe and Holly [England -Druids- and Scandinavians]; Poinsettias [Mexico]; Gift-giving [Italy]; Christmas tree [Germany]; Garlands, wreaths, evergreen boughs [Italy]; Herbs such as ivy, laurel, rosemary, etc [all over Europe]; Caroling [Italy and England]; Yule log/Yuletide seasons [Scandinavia]; Lights such as candles and oil [Babylon and Italy]; Fruit Cakes [still a mystery]

Christian Inspired or Related:

Christmas Cards [England]; The Nativity [Italy]; Christmas seals [Denmark]; Santa Claus [Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany]; Letting out of shoes and hanging stockings [Netherlands and England]; Rudolf, the red nosed Reindeer [America]; Candy Cane [Germany]; Advent wreath [Germany]; A candle on the window on Christmas Eve [Ireland]; Burning of candles in the advent wreath [Denmark]; Gift-wrapping [Denmark]; Twelve Days of Christmas song [England]; The word Christmas -Christ Mass- [Germany]; Xmas abbreviation [Greece] X stands for Christ; Christmas lanterns -Parol- [Philippines!]

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