Christmas for a Dutch Intern
For people who don’t know where the Netherlands is, it’s in Europe. So obviously, I live in the Northern hemisphere. That’s why coming to South Africa is a new adventure in so many ways! Culture, food, safety, nature, climate and just the way of living. I’m super excited to have relocated to a country that is the complete opposite to what I know, from September - January. First of all because I skip winter!! Secondly, I get to spend Christmas here! Celebrating Christmas in Cape Town is going to be so weird to me, because the South African traditions are totally different from the Dutch traditions.
A typical Dutch Christmas
To begin, we don’t have one day of Christmas, we have TWO days of Christmas!
We call it First Christmas day (Eerste Kerstdag) and Second Christmas day (Tweede Kerstdag). To be honest, I really don’t know who came up with that or why, but I know that it’s an extra day to spend with family and eat lots of food!
In the Netherlands Christmas isn’t Christmas without Christmas markets. On every big square in the city you will find an ice rink where you can rent skates and around it you will find stalls selling hot chocolate and mulled wine. All the villages and cities will make the center a winter-wonderland.
My First Christmas day
My family and I start the day by going to church all dressed up, since Christmas is a great reason to do so ❤️
When we get home, we have a full breakfast with fresh baked bread, croissants, raisin bread with almond paste, fried/scrambled eggs, pancakes and make fresh orange juice. This is very typical in the Netherlands! After breakfast we get ready to visit my grandparents. I really love the family visits because of the buffet made by my grandparents and it’s nice to be together with the entire family. We end the night by returning home to cook with a ‘gourmetstel’ (insert image).
For some kind of weird unknown reason gourmet feels like Christmas, which is why we NEVER do it during summer. We spent the rest of the evening on the couch watching a movie where I get under a blanket with my super soft and warm socks on.
My Second Christmas day
We all sleep in and have a FULL breakfast again. Yes, you haven’t seen me eat.
During our day we do something different but similar every year, like walking somewhere close to our house, go somewhere far to walk (relatively far, because you can cross the entire country in three hours) or go to a castle with a pretty garden. Sometimes we just stay home and watch movies the whole day.
For dinner, we’d cook something special like pesto chicken with potatoes from the oven and a variety of veggies or we’d fondue, either an oil or a cheese fondue with special cheeses like Swiss cheese.
Our weather during Christmas
IT’S COLD! I know, I told you we’d dress up, but we are freezing our asses off. Lots of people think it’s nice to spend Christmas in the Netherlands because they think we have a ‘white Christmas’. Well, that’s where they’re wrong. I haven’t had a white Christmas since 2008…. We do get snow in February and March. Christmas is mostly rainy, cloudy and/or windy.
This picture is taken on the 11th of December..... On the 25th the snow was gone.
Christmas in South Africa
I haven’t experienced Christmas here, yet. That’s why I’ll tell you about Christmas in Cape Town/South Africa in general.
Before Christmas, many stores will play Christmas songs and put up decorations like Christmas trees and fake snow, which to me feels really weird because it’s so warm outside. Besides the inside decoration all the plants and trees are in full bloom. In the Netherlands all the plants and trees have lost their leaves by the time it’s Christmas.
On Christmas eve people can enjoy carol singing everywhere in the city which brings a great atmosphere to the city.
On Christmas day, a lot of people go to church. Did you know that 4/5 South Africans are Christian? After church, people go to the beach and are “braaiing” there for dinner. The South Africans who do not live close to a beach will have a different day planning. Some people will spend the day with their neighbors who they’re really close with, because for many people, their family lives very far away. For dinner they will no braai, instead they’ll eat a traditional meal. A traditional Christmas meal in South Africa consists of roasted turkey, duck or beef. Other meals include mince pies, or suckling pig with yellow rice, raisins and vegetables. For dessert they eat Malva pudding, which is a traditional South African delicacy.
The South Africans have ‘Boxing day’ instead of a Second Christmas day. On Boxing day many shops will start sales, so naturally people go shopping on Boxing day.
One big difference for visitors, is that a lot of restaurants are closed on Christmas day, while in the Netherlands most of the restaurants stay open, because these nights are the busiest and most profitable!
To end my blog, just a small fact: The Afrikaans and Dutch greeting for Merry Christmas is almost similar. This isn’t very weird since South Africa has a lot of Dutch influences. In Afrikaans people say “Geseende Kersfees” and in Dutch people say “Gezond Kerstfeest”.