Friday, February 10, 2012

Day #10

Day #10 and this time it was our favourite memory we had to scrapbook about.  My memories went back to the month of December.  It was one of my favourite months when I was a child.  First Sinterklaas en then Christmas but most of all New Year's Eve.  All of these days have different memories.  No layout this time with lots of photos though the small photo on December 5th is my dad at a Sinterklaas party.  The 25th features one of the family trees.  And then the oliebollen picture on the 31st was taken from the Internet.

I tried to tell my kids about my New Year's eve tree hunting stories but of course they did not understand.  Then I found this cookbook Let's Go Dutch Again and the co-author told about his experience as a young boy in Den Haag.  I am sure he use to live in my neighbourhood the next street over or something as he tells the New Year's Eve story just the way I experienced it.

This is the text I used:
"One of my favorite memories is that of New Year's Eve (Oudejaarsavond) in The Hague where I spent my early childhood years. New Year's Eve was, of course, part of the Christmas season. As soon as Christmas was past, everyone geared up for the festivities surrounding this big day.
Some of the people would dismantle their Christmas trees early and put them out for garbage collection. Young neighborhood boys would gather these trees and hide them for a bonfire which was always scheduled for midnight, New Year's Eve. The people on each street competed against each other to have the biggest bonfire.
It was of course inevitable that Christmas trees would be "appropriated" from the competition's cache. It was also inevitable that some clashes would erupt. In fact, "street gangs" of small boys developed. I say "street gangs" with fondness because it was entirely normal to feud over trees in the morning and to engage in a friend­ ly soccer game in the afternoon. With the "tree fights" as well as the soccer matches, it was one street against another. Both events were frequently shut down by a police officer (agent, klabak) who patrolled the streets on his bicycle. Of course, fighting was disallowed as was street soccer.
The evening would be spent with games and listening to the New Year's Eve spe cials on the radio. We would often listen to one of Holland's famous comedians, Wim Kan. Throughout the evening, we would indulge in all of the goodies which Mother had prepared throughout the day. Then, at about 11:00 p.m., we went outside with our fireworks. Christmas trees would be removed from their hiding places. We piled the trees as high as we could on the street, most often at an intersection. At about 5 minutes before midnight, the excitement would start to reach a climax. The bonfire was lit. Fireworks (vuurpijlen, rotjes, zevenklappers, donderbussen) of all sorts were ignited. At midnight, the clock towers would sound their glorious bells and people would hug each other or, if they were more reserved, shake hands. Few people remained in their houses. Everyone was in the streets.
(These excerpt was taken from Let’s go Dutch Again Cookbook by
Johanna (van der Zeijst) Bates and Jan Walrabenstein)
My own text:
December 5 -
Sinterklaas. Exchange of gifts was done on December 5th. As young children we would put out our shoes and have hay and carrots for Sinterklaas his horse to eat. It is like Santa Claus where you had a wish list and you got presents but beside the presents were the special gifts. This is where you made a gift and kind of hid the gift inside a handmade ‘masked gift’ which was usually something to do with the person receiving the gift. With it was a ‘rhyming story’ (verse) explaining the meaning of the masked gift and hints to the real gift. One I remember my mom got was a ball of yarn and 2 knitting needles. My mom use to knit a lot and the giver had wound the yarn around a small gift for my mom and the verse would talk about my mom and her love for knitting. I guess this is hard to explain unless you know the tradition of this kind of gift giving. Lots of thinking, time and effort went into these gifts.
December 25 _
Christmas was all about family. My dad, brothers and I would go out and buy a Christmas tree. Take it home and then time to decorate. Dad would put in the lights first and then the kids were allowed to help with the ornaments and we always had little chocolate wreaths hanging in the tree. Real candles as well but they were not lit. We also had one larger chocolate wreath hanging in the tree and that was a prize for the winner of the candle burning contest. During Christmas dinner we would all get a candle in our ‘own’ candle holder. They were all lit at the same time and the candle which burned the longest the owner would win the large chocolate wreath. I am sure you can imagine the efforts we did as children trying to blow out other peoples candles (once out you were out of the competition) without our parents noticing it. It was also a time of family games. It was a time of mandarin oranges, candy and chocolates, with lots of good baking and snacks. All in all it was a very memorable time. We did not exchange presents at Christmas. This was done on the 5th of December – Sinterklaas.
December 31 -
Just one more thing about New Year’s Eve. Everyone would make appelflappen and oliebollen that day for everyone to eat later in the evening and kind of have a silent competition as to who would have the best oliebollen in the neighbourhood. In our household it was my dad making them and the joke for the longest time was that he used self turning flour. See the oliebollen would turn on their own in the hot oil when they were brown on one side and my dad always told us it was because of the self turning flour he used. I too believed him for the longest time and these are memories you never forget.
Finally my memories are on paper.

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