Think you have present problems?
There are some great things about living abroad, sharing cultural differences, learning lots of new things but the yearly traditions can get complicated.
In Holland we have someone called “The Sint” who looks an awful like Santa but totally isn’t. He arrives by boat from Spain with his “Piets,” the Sint version of elves but they are black (from the soot from the chimneys? But, that’s not important).
The important thing is that the guy comes three weeks before his birthday and hangs out around the country, sending the kids into a frenzy. Imagine that Santa filled the stockings not once but eight times. I mean, seriously. Jeez Louise (as a friend of mine once said). It’s huge, a mega country-wide production. There is the Sint news channel at 17:40 every night on national TV. They come up with a different story each year that freaks the kids out that there will be no presents. This year the story is about his lost book (I think…) so he doesn’t know who’s been good. A lot of Santa stuff going on. But, apparently, the Sint was here first.
The coming in on the boat is really great. The cities and villages go all out, there is energy in the air, the Piets give out small cookies and candies and often know the name of the kids (we live in a small village).
There is dancing and singing, tension and excitement. I can almost get into it. THEN…
The kids put out there (stinky) shoes at night. They fill them with fresh apples (hence the reason I used the word stinky) and carrots, leave notes about what they want and sing songs (all day long).
They wake up very early to check if the Piets have left a little gift in their shoe. No = major crying. Yes = well that’s obvious. There is a calendar available on-line of “when” they come. Very handy. Twice a week is more than enough. Then on December fifth, his birthday (I think), he leaves a big bag of gifts at the door. A big knock, the kids freak out, and there it is – The Bag. The bag is full of gifts for the kids. Some kids get ten gifts each, some get “only” three. We favor the three… The kids open the gifts like its Christmas, we eat some traditional sweet stuff and that’s a wrap. Well, not quite. You see he also leaves the country, the next day. We’ve managed to skip that event so far but I suspect it might be on the radar this year. There are also some other nice things that the big kids and adults do. They write poems for each other and make “surprises” but we haven’t gotten there yet so I can’t say much about it…
THEN we have Christmas. I mean, I love Santa, so I need to do the Christmas thing but even I have to admit, it’s a little much. But Santa doesn’t exist here. He’s the Sint. So we’ve done the “well if you don’t believe then”… story and my kids believe in Santa and on the 24th of December we start all over again. Less fanfare, no TV news about him, it’s all me. And I love it! But, as I said, it’s a bit much.
So. To sum up. Four kids x eight pairs shoes x three to four in the bag gifts + four x socks AND Santa. Pffff… Yes, I have an excel sheet. And also not to overlook, two birthdays in that same period.
So you think you have present problems? Welcome to my life.