Christmas in the Esther household

So, Suzy from Silverbluelining has been asking about Christmas traditions and has helpfully listed questions so nothing will be forgotten! Here are my answers…

First off: Christmases past

Christmas with my family was special when we were growing up. When I was a child living just outside of Jerusalem we lived in a rented house (beautiful with an old stone olive press bang in the middle of our living room!) that adjoined a convent. We were very good friends with the nuns there and we’d go there to celebrate Christmas or they’d come to our house. We’d sing carols and eat the lovely cookies they made. I also recall going to church in Jerusalem. We did gifts but nothing huge or fancy. Santa was no big deal, it was more about celebrating and being together.

We then moved to Germany and the celebrations changed somewhat. My mother loved the idea of an advent wreath, so we started using one every year. On Christmas Eve we’d go to a midnight mass (which meant we could stay up late!) and afterwards we’d get home, my dad would make Glühwein (the younger kids were allowed one sip but had other drinks until we too were old enough for Glühwein) and we’d unwrap gifts under the Christmas tree. We’d be up till 3 am, it was so much fun! Christmas Day would be all about sleeping in and enjoying our gifts and relaxing.

Now that I’m grown up, no longer go to church or see myself as religious, and have a family of my own, Christmas is a little different.

Do you have an Advent wreath? Classical? Round? Or something new every year? Creatively hand made or creatively bought on your own?

Nope, no wreath here although my mother still has one every year. They aren’t that easy to find here but she somehow always fixes something.

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Christmas story slide show 9 years ago with Christmas wreath at my parents’ house

Do you have an Advent calendar? With sweets? Hand crafted or bought? With a special motif?

We had advent calendars (store bought) with chocolates in them when I was a kid in Germany. I now buy them for my kids as well. I am not crafty at all, so no way am I crafting anything! 🙂 This year I have a Star Wars one for my 14 year old son and a Minnie Mouse one for my almost 12 year old daughter (yeah, I know, but there wasn’t that much choice…)

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Which is your most favourite Christmas dinner? A traditional one? Any recipe for us……?

My dad always used to make Turkey for Christmas with a very nice filling that had nuts and raisins and I don’t know what else in it. I don’t know the recipe he used but it was delicious. We’d have cranberry sauce to go with that. To this day when I celebrate Christmas with my family we have Turkey with cranberry sauce. This year I am the one providing the family turkey, other family members are providing the side dishes and deserts. As there are so many on my side of the family, we always have a buffet dinner…

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OK, so last year it was chicken but you get the idea…

A typical ritual at Christmas? Something special for your country and/or your family?

I’m not sure we have a typical Christmas ritual in The Netherlands. Christmas here is all about Christmas dinner. We have TWO Christmas Days (25th and 26th) and there always has to be a special dinner on each day. Christmas Eve is not a huge deal here, although the shops do close earlier and the faithful of course go to church. People do exhange gifts for Christmas but not so very many and they aren’t usually big or expensive. My husband and I have developed our own ritual over the last 16 or 17 years: every December he and I and two college friends of ours go to a Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in Germany, just us and no kids. We’ve been to Aachen, Münster, Köln, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Essen, Oberhausen (and possibly more that I’m forgetting here) and last weekend we went further north and went to Oldenburg! Like each year, we didn’t buy that much but we had a marvelous time!

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One of the Weihnachtsmarkt stalls selling festive looking houses

Your most favourite christmas movie/series….

We don’t have anything we typically watch over and over again at Christmas. I do have some favourite Christmas movies but I don’t necessarily watch them at Christmas. Here, have some Colin Firth in Christmas jumper in Bridget Jones’s Diary, one of the movies on my list…

06 meeting… and here’s some Richard Armitage/Dawn French Christmas cheer in The Vicar of Dibley, another show high up on my list.

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What kind of music do you prefer on Christmas Eve?

I love listening to the English King’s College Choir Christmas carols. I grew up with English Christmas carols as a child in Israel and hearing them really gets me into the Christmas mood. Luckily my husband loves them too!

Are you celebrating with your whole family? Alone 😎 ? With friends?
We always celebrate with family. Christmas morning my husband sets the table for a nice Christmas breakfast…

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… and afterwards the four of us open the gifts that we have under our Christmas tree…

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Christmas morning 8 years ago.

In the afternoon we go to my in-laws or they come to our house (my husband is an only child, so it’s just the four of us and his parents) and we have dinner together.

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Setting the table for meat fondue dinner at our house 3 years ago.

Second Christmas Day (December 26th, Boxing Day in the UK) is reserved for my family. I have lots of brothers and sisters, so it’s always very busy, even when not everyone can be there! It’s usually celebrated at my parents’ house but the last few years we had the celebration at my sister’s house. My mother reads the Christmas story and gives a little speech, my dad used to say something as well and then he always used to bless all the grandchildren in Dutch (he was a retired Dutch Reformed Church pastor) saying ‘Aaron’s blessing’: “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

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The last 3 years of his life my dad was not able to do this anymore, but he was always there and always loved being in the warmth of the family circle. After the ceremonial bits we then all unwrap gifts we all got each other, sometimes there will be some games and then we have our Turkey buffet dinner. We’ll be doing all this again this year, but it will be the first Christmas without my dad…

Then on “Third Christmas Day” (as my husband and I call it) the four of us pack our bags, load the car (including our two cats) and we travel to the north of The Netherlands to a little holiday cottage my parents own. We spend the rest of our Christmas vacation there (as we have done for the past 10 years), all quiet and hidden away from the world! Bliss!

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Are you going to have a Christmas tree? 🎄With any decoration – an individual work of art? Discreet or everything the Christmas shop has offered?

Yes, we have a Christmas tree, we buy one each year. Not too high or expensive, with a mish mash of ornaments that we have collected over the years. We’re eclectic rather than stylish. We may have gone a little overboard with the amount of lights this year…

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Tree is on a stool to prevent the cats being too attracted to it. So far it’s been working, they haven’t tried to climb the tree yet.

Your favorite Christmas cookie?

Don’t have one! I’m not a crafter or a baker but my daughter loves to bake (I have no idea where she gets that from!), so last year we made some very basic Christmas cookies that actually tasted surprisingly good! 🙂

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14 thoughts on “Christmas in the Esther household

  1. Great to read about Christmas the Dutch – or Esther – way. Is the 5th of December the big day for exchanging gifts in the Netherlands?
    And Oldenburg – that’s not too far away from where I come from. Mind you, I have never been to the Christmas market there; I always go to Bremen. (Recommendation for your trip next year – top of the list here: http://www.skyscanner.net/news/10-of-the-best-christmas-markets-in-europe?associateid=PCP_TRA_00137_00023&utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=paid+content+promotion&utm_campaign=uk-travel-pp&utm_content=native-10-of-the-best-christmas-markets-in-europe) I’ll be indulging in “Schmalzkuchen” and “Glühwein there next week *hooray*

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    • Yes, 5th of December is the big gift event for kids here! But once they stop believing it all gets smaller.
      We picked the smaller Oldenburg because I am still having some trouble with the dizziness and smaller seemed easier to negotiate. But we were actually talking of going to Bremen next year! Nice to see it so highly recommended. Funny that Amsterdam is on the list, I don’t think I’ve ever been to Amsterdam around Christmas time…

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    • Ich sehe schon, sie werden Dich vom Christmas Market tragen müssen bei all dem Glühwein 🙂 Habt viel Spaß!!!

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  2. So viele schöne Fotos von der family, ich vergesse immer Fotos zu machen, immer nur beim auspacken 🙂 und der Leuchter auf dem ersten Bild ist ja wunderschön! Die “the English King’s College Choir Christmas carols” sind sehr schön für Weihnachten ❤ besinnlich und entspannend. Schön, in so einer großen Familie zu feiern. Wir sind nur zu viert, der rest ist zu weit weg. Aber in diesem Jahr sind wir am boxing day dort und feiern gemeinsam nach…..

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    • Zu viert ist auch schön! Es macht mir eigentlich nicht so viel aus wie viele Menschen dabei sind, Hauptsache ist, dass ich sie gerne mag. :). Und manchmal keine Familienverpflichtung zu haben ist auch schön. Deswegen liebe ich es, um am 27. Dezember weg zu fahren, da gibt es keine Verpflichtungen an Sylvester. 🙂

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  3. Tur–key!!!!

    This seems delightfully low key with the emphasis in all the right places.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely photos! I especially enjoyed the cookies 🙂 It is surprising how good a basic butter cookie can be, especially with some frosting or sugar sprinkles.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lovely – thanks for sharing your Christmas traditions with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] berichtet hier ausführlich über ‘Christmas in the Esther household’, ihrer Jugend in Jerusalem wo […]

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  7. Ha Esther, leuk om jouw Kerstervaringen te lezen.
    Fijne Kerstdagen en een goed en gezond 2016! En geniet van je vakantie met man en kinderen.
    Groet,
    Emma

    Liked by 1 person

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