Friday, December 28, 2007

'tis the season

tis the season to be jolly...

i love love love the holidays in holland. everything here is just so small and cute and cozy. extreem gezellig! it seems like december has just flown by, thanks in part to all the parties and festivities and activities we've been a part of.

here is a sampling of pictures from our past month:

there was a kerstmarkt, or christmas market, the two sundays before christmas. we only made it to one of the kerstmarkten because i ended up taking a 2-hour nap on one of those days and missed all the activities! sad! but the one that we made it to was soooo cute, and the weather was better that day anyway so it's all good.

there were all these little campfires set up in the market square, giving the air a nice, wintry smell to it. and the smoke rising from the fires was especially noticeable because the sun was actually shining that day. it was cooooold outside, so we sat by the largest fire in the square, which was burning near some stand that was sponsored by someone sort of like the boyscouts, but not the boyscouts. someone else kinda like that. they were selling hot cocoa, gluhwein (hot spiced red wine) and slices of raisin bread. so we got ourselves a little treat and sat by the fire to enjoy the day. then a random marching band wandered by and played rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and santa slid by in his sleigh-on-wheels (we don't have any snow). there were high school students playing their instruments as quietly as they could up on a stage, and they seemed genuinely shocked when adam and i clapped for them when they finished playing god rest ye merry gentlemen. and everywhere people were selling little homemade things for christmas: little wreaths, candles, necklaces and bracelets, hand-knitted scarves and mittens, etc.

there was also adam's office christmas party. last year it was held in utrecht because that's where the head of the department was living. he has since retired, and adam's direct boss was promoted to the new head of the department (which here is a very enviable position and everyone wants it, not like in the usa where it's a rotating position that people groan about having to fill on their required year...). so since the new head lives in enschede, the party was at his house. it was really nice to see so many familiar faces there, a lot of folks i hadn't seen since the company outing to muenster. the food was great, the drinks were plentiful, and the ambiance was cozy. last year i felt like i was just going around introducing myself to everyone, trying to figure out their role in the department. but this year i was actually among friends. it was so nice.

meanwhile, the ijsbaan has been going on the market square. for about one month, a temporary ice skating rink is set up, with music, skate rentals, and the most impressive warming house you've ever seen: coffee, an inflatable santa, beer, wine, coasters.... the whole bit! it seems to be really popular every day, and we will often see school groups coming and going to enjoy it as well. one night there was a marching band playing fun music to entice people to come over and check it out. and there is a beautiful tree set up in the middle of the market square, and lights on the building that houses our bank, and lights streaming from just about anything you could string lights up on. it was so pretty.

on the saturday before christmas, the market (which is normally in town on saturdays and wednesdays) was especially busy and full of festivities. after purchasing all of our groceries (cheese, eggs, fresh produce, sometimes we might get some fresh fish or a chicken to roast), we had our usual lunch of gebakkende vis (a big piece of deep-fried fish, which we share). normally we also get a big serving of french fries at the stand next door to the fish place, but this saturday we noticed that someone on the market was selling chocolate covered waffles, so we got one of those instead! i especially liked the marching band that played in the "food court" area, but my favorite again this year was the stable that was set up on our street. the little restaurant across the street from us teamed up with a stand from the market (we call that stand "fresh nuts" because their sign says "verse noten," which means fresh nuts in english, and they sell all sorts of assorted nuts) and sponsored a whole manger scene, complete with a live camel, a couple of donkeys, and servers dressed up as magi and shepherds, giving out free glasses of gluhwein. yay!

(our house is the one directly in the middle of this photograph; right above the head of the magi guy. the two big windows below are our living room, and the balcony and two large windows above are our bedroom. this is what we mean when we say our place is ridiculously huge and that you should all come and visit us!)

it's been a really fun and full holiday season for us, and we're glad we were able to celebrate it in so many different ways!

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