Yes, that’s right. I just did a really dumb pun about…holidays.
Frans and I were having a project night last night in our apartment, which both of us really look forward to. It usually involves painting one of our buys from Marktplaats (the Dutch Craigslist..and usually this is Frans), and reading aloud from Eugene Peterson’s memoir, The Pastor (my job). We sip wine or tea and light candles, breathing in small amounts of turpentine-based paint, watching the candlelight flicker against the dark, rain-splashed window, and generally enjoy just being together. And sometimes we just talk. We’re still learning about each other. I’m trying to stand in these large, wooden shoes.
Just last night we had a conversation about the differences in our expectations of Christmas, based upon both family practices and culture.
It lead to a further discussion about holidays here in Holland, compared to what I’m used to in the U.S. So I thought it might be fun to throw both Dutch and American holidays into the ring, and see what we can learn as they duke it out. (Not really, I’m not trying to judge which one is “better,” but I do want to put their positives and negatives side by side like presidential candidate statistics in a news magazine).
Halloween vs. Saint Maarten’s Day
Important note: For both, you need to be well-stocked with candy. We’re lucky that we still had leftover candy from our Bruiloftsfeest (Dutch wedding reception).
Let’s begin with the first holiday I “missed” by being in Holland. Halloween. Halloween is on October 31. Halloween is known by its scary costumes, trick or treating, and copious amounts of candy. In my opinion, Halloween in the States has gotten out of control, and propitiated by commercialism, is now finding its way into theme parks, movies, and all kinds of social media. Yuck. A holiday once allocated to children for dressing up in costume, has now become a gold mine for stores and companies marketing to adults…who seem to gladly spend way to much money on sometimes gory, dark, or skanky costumes (for the ladies). And I must say, just last year, I myself threw a Halloween-based dress up party for my friends. Many came with creative costumes and I myself was Snooki. A modest Snooki, but Snooki nonetheless. I’m not really proud of that fact.
I really missed seeing my little nieces and nephew dress up this year. They love it…love joining their friends and creating a costume, carrying a pumpkin from house to house, adoring neighbor to adoring neighbor, and collecting delicious treats to last for weeks. In a land where seasons are known not by changing of weather (it’s pretty much a consistent shades of green, humidity, and heat in Florida), but by celebrations, Halloween in Florida also marks a change of season. Cooler weather is around the corner. My sis-in-law Katie made the super cute display below.
I have fun memories of bobbing for apples, attending fall carnivals with games, and planning a costume to be sewn by Mom. My parents did a great job at keeping the gore and evil out of Halloween, and focusing on the fun. Still, I’m not impressed with our consumerist culture and how something that once was fun and simple (unless you go all the way back to its pagan roots hundreds and hundreds of years ago), can become oftentimes ghoulish and well, downright provocative. I’m not proud of the way that American adults have usurped the holiday. Let’s keep it for the children, please.
Saint Martin’s Day
Okay, I know you’re thinking. Erin, this isn’t fair. How can Halloween compete with a holiday with the word “saint” in its title? I know, I know. Completely unfair. And once you see pictures of this little holiday, celebrated Nov. 11th, you’ll fall out of your chair. And the knockout punch? Martin Luther is named after Saint Martin, a Roman soldier turned Christian monk, who was known for his simplicity, kindness, and generosity. St. Martin’s day was a day of feasting before fasting began for the medieval Advent season.
In Holland, children parade through the dark streets and parks holding lit, colorful paper lanterns. They knock on doors and sing Martinmaas songs in order to receive candy. Only children. I did not see one adult trying this out.
Frans and I sat in Wannie’s Snackshop and watched hordes of children tinkle the bell at the door and march in, looking for the candy lady. They sang a song in Dutch, proudly holding their homemade or paper mache lanterns. They each took one candy, and turned to leave with their parents. The children were two years old to eleven years old. It is one of the sweetest things I’ve ever seen.
Yes, I do miss caramel apples and candy corn. Yes, I did miss people decked out in orange on Oct. 31st(possibly also the result of spending too much time with teachers), and of course I missed seeing the little ones in my family enjoying themselves trick or treating as I did when I was their age.
Aren’t most of the things we miss related to good memories?
However, I would be a happy woman if the tide went backwards, and instead of what usually happens, the customs and habits of the U.S. making their way via media into Holland, Saint Martin’s Day began to spread across the cities and towns in America (hint, hint). In other words, I wouldn’t mind if Halloween received a knockout punch and was down for the count.