Tell me, have you cried today? Did you wake up having trouble breathing last night? Did you and your partner/housemate/child have a fight? Did you put your kids in front of a movie just to be able to take a bath and wash your hair? Yeah? So did I.
Times are uncertain. The news we hear every day at 11:00 in the morning is rarely reassuring. Even when we’re being told each day that all is stabilizing. Between health measures, social distancing and fear of the virus, your breathing is quickening.
Belgium is on a break, but you feel like you’ve been stuck in a rut for weeks without being able to get out of it. You’re dizzy, out of breath, you feel nauseous, but you have to pretend that all is well and that you are enjoying it. Posting positive pictures to Instagram with hashtags#TogetherAtHome #MyPandemicSurvivalPlan
So that your brain will finally believe it and give you a break, but also to make your family feel somewhat good or better.
You’re the focal point of your household. The pillar. The one that keeps the roof from falling on your head. The lifeline at the end of each other’s line. The moral support on your keyboard at all hours of the day.
You’re made resilient. Everybody knows that. But then, the incessant “mommmmmy” in your ears, the “what are we eating”, the “what are we doing”, the “how are you”, the “did you take time for yourself today”, the “you should go for a walk” irritate you to no end.
You don’t feel like taking a walk to breathe. You want to go to the spa. By yourself. For a week! You slightly envy your friends in a solitary quarantine. You find it hard to sympathize when others tell you they’re bored… Honestly, you’d just send everyone away.
But you won’t. Because you love them. Because you know it’s just a bad time and you know it’s gonna be okay. You roll up your sleeves, tie your hair up and put a smile on your face so your kids will remember this as their best family vacation ever.
You’ve always been a strong woman. You’re going to be Wonder Woman when this is all over.
I’d like to tell you that your eyes won’t be wet today. You won’t clench your teeth, you won’t smother a scream in your pillow, you’re gonna be okay and that you will be able to wash your hair.
The truth is, I don’t know. What I do know is that Wonder Woman always wins at the end of a movie. It won’t be any different for us.
In this post, I am sharing with you my positives for us during this self-isolation. We are all in this together to flatten the curve we need #StayAtHome.
The pandemic crisis we are currently experiencing, I really didn’t see it coming (probably like all of you)! It came from behind, sneakily and suddenly! It has shaken up my life, my daily routine, without me even having had time to prepare for it.
At the time, it was almost unreal. It started with parents not being allowed to collect their children inside of the schools, but wait for them outside. Very unusual for our school and I knew then (and also after reading about what was happening in Italy) that the schools would soon be closing. And they did two days later. March 14th, 2020 was the last day.
At the very beginning of this isolation, my first reflex was to continue my little routine as before. I didn’t immediately cancel the coffee and play dates I had planned for the following days with my friends. In fact, some of my acquaintances were still posting photos on Facebook of the gatherings they were doing with their loved ones during the weekend. I know, it wasn’t the best idea…
Then, I listened to the news and the press briefings of the Belgian government and I understood how my own actions or behaviors had a real and important impact on the spread of the virus. Respecting public health recommendations and social distancing, even with our close entourage, is essential if we want to save lives. So I canceled everything: playdates, lunch dates, and even our church (a great big part of my social life) had to cancel bible studies and Sunday services. Then began my real confinement.
It’s pretty rare that I have so much time to spend continuously inside the house. The members of my household consist of my 26-year-old daughter, my 6-year-old son, myself, our two Dachshunds, cat, hamster, fish, and turtles. 🙂
At home with the “kids”
My daughter still needs to go to work and so I understand that she wants to relax during the weekend, but when she just sits in the coach, gaming or on her phone while I’m trying to make diner, entertain her little brother and do the washing up, it frustrates me and I can get a bit sharp-tongued.
But she does go out and play soccer with her little brother, she drives me to the grocery store, gives me a big hug every evening. So, overall, it’s been great having her home so much instead of just seeing her briefly during the week and then comes the weekend and she’s off to her boyfriend in Ghent. Looking forward to having a “girls night” this weekend. Chips, wine, and a chick flick.
My six-year-old is such a happy easy-going child, but he is a child nonetheless. After about every 30 minutes he will as me “what can I eat?” hopeful that I would say, “Hey why don’t you go get yourself some ice cream or candy” and is ever so disappointed when I say to get some fruit or something healthy instead,
When I’m having fellowship or women’s bible study via ZOOM, he creeps up behind me, poking me in the neck with his tiny little finger “can I play on the Switchmommy, please, can I?” even though I laid out another activity for him. I usually give in and say yes (and then feeling guilty about the excessive screen time)
And he is very stubborn, we are currently in a trust battle.
Me: “If you promise to do something, I expect you to do it then.”
Mister 6: “No, I don’t want to”
Me: “Then you are breaking my trust, I respect that you have the right to choose some things, but this is something YOU promised to do, and now you will not“
Mister 6: “I just don’t want to! Now I’m tired of your words and your brain”….
He then walks out of the room…
😳 He is also learning about consequences —->no screen time until the end of time.
The fun side
But on the more fun side, I’m super proud of his creativity and imagination in inventing new games for himself. In fact, we take the opportunity to get out board games we haven’t played in a very long time or I had the local radio on and it was playing classics from the ’80s and so I was sharing with my son where I was in life and what was happening in the world when a particular song came out. We even looked up the video of the 80’s song “The land of confusion” by Genesis. Sad to realize that most of the world leaders in the video are deceased and it reminds me again how we are only here for a short time.
Another positive element that this confinement brings to my life is the possibility of cleaning up. My Lord, how happy I am to have ENDURING time to regain control of my house. I have so often wished that time would stop for a month so that I could clean my house! I feel so bad to be happy about it in the current context but I really needed to start cleaning, packing and sorting things out as we are to move again mid-May. Lord willing.
Big love for technology
ZOOM, why have I never heard about this application before. As a Canadian across the pond from home I regularly Facetime with my mom and sister, and the quality is never great, not even good. But I have been introduced to ZOOM via church. We do our weekly online women’s bible study and Saturday’s we have a prayer group and on most days there is fellowship tome. Meaning that anybody with the need to just not feel alone can join in and we have some chit chat.
I have gotten to know people that I have never spoken to before. I have had deep conversations with friends. It’s just pretty surprising how this damned virus is bringing people together.
Time to reflect
Finally, the thing I appreciate most about this period of isolation is the time I have to think. To reflect on my life, on faith… on my spiritual journey that I have been on for a few years now. I take the opportunity to take stock of my past choices in order to make the best possible decisions for my post-pandemic life. With the help of my family, therapist and close friends, I am learning to think about myself and my well-being instead of all the negative stuff that has been going through my mind due to what happened. Instead of investing my time in those who don’t appreciate it.
I realize as I get older that my time is precious, so I try to choose carefully who I want to spend it with and in what context I want to spend it. It is not always easy to think about myself because I have always wanted to please others, sometimes even at the expense of my own feelings.
Today, I give myself the right to express myself and to protect myself from things that could hurt me or take away my energy unnecessarily. It’s a long process, sometimes easier said than done, but I work on it every day and this episode of confinement gives me the opportunity to congratulate myself for the progress I’ve made and to set new goals to reach in order to be in perfect harmony with who I am, as I am in God!
So let’s all #StayAtHome
I do realize the COVID-19 sets off a financial contagion in the global economy with stock markets in free-fall and the OECD predicting a global recession, but this is needed. Our government (and most worldwide governments) publicly funded health care doesn’t have the capacity to handle even a relatively small surge in acute patients.
So #StayInside, let’s not spread this virus around and try to see the positive. That’s all we can do for now.
How about you? What does this time off bring to your life? What are your positives and most importantly, how can I pray for you?
If you found your way to my post “Homeschool Kindergarten- The corona semester”, you are probably like me, having to keep your children home from school due to the COVID-19.
Life in Belgium
Here in Belgium, all school lessons will be suspended starting today, March 16. However, the government called on citizens not to rely on grandparents to look after children meaning schools will still be responsible for providing care when parents have no choice but to work and for those who work in health care. The suspension of classes is until at least after Easter break. So many of you like me have to keep your children home. Yay?
My ‘dream’ of homeschooling (something very uncommon in Belgium) is coming true. But I know that my “dream” is considered a nightmare for others. I sympathize with those parents who still have to go out to work or are working from home with children already bored since this weekend.
I truly know that staying at home with kids can be a challenge, but it is what it is for now and we all need to try and make the best of it I suppose. But parents, do what you need to do to keep your sanity.
For me it, it’s having a schedule, for others, it’s switching on the TV for the kids while you go take a bath…it’s ok (yes, I’m thinking of you friend). These are unexpected times.
Schools have asked the parents to not treat this time as an extra school vacation but to try and keep our children academically motivated and busy. Some schools even providing homework and objectives.
So here I’m sharing with you what our homeschool kindergarten- The corona semester (3de kindergarten class, Belgium) looks like for now.
We won’t be very strict in following it, it’s more of a guideline. Right now it’s 10:30 am and my six-year-old is sitting on the table drawing Yoshi character from his new Nintendo Switch game. It’s all good momma!
Pinterest is full of great ideas! Here is my board with ideas I love and tried out. Pin some.
I’m going to share monthly with you what has sparked joy in the past month for me. It will not always be things, but it can be an outing, it can be a craft I did with my son, a new recipe I tried out. It can just be anything.
Here is my list of things that have sparked some Joy and given me a thrill this past month.
Visiting the train museum “TrainWorld” in Brussels on Wednesday afternoon and simulating an actual train ride at the end.
My new translucent with a touch of glitter, Jimmy Choo glasses. I love them more in their box than on my face though.
YNAB!!! I have been using this budgeting website for a couple of months, but it was only since this month that I can actually see where my money is going to and where I need to make changes. I love this website and so it’s so easy to use. I actually like doing my finances now.
The Museum of Natural Sciences. Must do the museum, again in Brussels. Tip: For children 5 and up there is the PaleoLab experience during the school holidays. My 6-year-old especially liked rebuilding a stegosaurus.
Ash Wednesday. The beginning of the Lent season. I actually love this more than Christmas. Easter is about the completion of God’s plan that begun with Christmas. I have been following Sarah Bessey’s “Simple Practices for Lent”
Last one and another museum. Yes, I love museums, don’t you? Well this one, The Gallo-Roman museum was not in Brussels but in a town called Tongeren where the Gaul Ambiorix is from. Probably my favorite museum up to now. Each level in the building was dedicated to an era, from the Neanderthal to the Gallo-Roman era. Very child-friendly. With a quick touch with of your audioguide on the item of your interest, you can choose between the children or the adult explanation. Tip: The “Super Guide” who is there during the School Holidays from 1:30 pm until 5:30 pm who knows about almost everything in the museum and lets your child, hear, experience and taste the past.
So that was it for the month of February. Many museums, not so many actual things.
Have you tried/done any of the things on my list above? Any comments you would like to share? Would love to hear. Any more museum recommendations?
I love Instagram and I love following other moms in particular. One of the tags I follow is actually is #momlife. I love seeing artsy pictures of cute children in cute outfits, I love seeing toys and crafts that I haven’t seen before and I love getting local tips or travel tips to try out with my 6-year-old.
I’m currently inspired & captivated with these 5 Instagram mom bloggers from Antwerp that you must go follow now. Seriously, do it. Now!
My top 5 Antwerp Instagram moms
Name Jessica // Blog: Exploring Life // Instagram: @jessicanobels– Teacher, blogger and an environmentalist with the cutest girls ever. Something about kids and glasses makes my heart melt. Maybe because my son wears them too.
Name: Lynn // Blog: Averechtse // Instagram: @LynnFormesyn – She is not the typical Instagram mom. She mainly uses Instagram to advocate for people with chronic pain (people like me). She is a gifted writer with an honest pen and recently wrote a book. Truly inspiring woman.
Name: Lies // Blog: Liesellove // Instagram:@Liesellove – She is a #momentrepreneur in the digital world and has a wonderful taste in taking colorful pictures of her super cute family. Also very inspiring when it comes to family travels.
So these were my My top 5 Antwerp Instagram moms!
Who would you like to add to this post? I cannot get enough of these strong power mama’s! Leave them for me in the comments and I’ll be sure to check them out!
I’ve decided to share with you guys a mini list of things that have sparked joy for me in the past month. I know when you hear “Sparks Joy” you are probably thinking of the Netflix series with Marie Kondo, about organizing and minimizing your belongings.
I watched that show just before moving last October and I must say, I found it very helpful when sorting through my stuff. The phrase now always pops in my head when organizing or when even shopping for things. Does it spark joy? Does it give me a thrill?
So I’m going to share monthly with you what has sparked joy in the past month for me. It won’t always be things, but it can be an outing, it can be a craft I did with my son, a new recipe I tried out. It can just be anything.
To refresh my memory while writing this post, I first check my Instagram where I share e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g ….I’m an oversharer I’ve been told. 🙊
So here is a list of things that have sparked some Joy and given me a thrill this past month.
This amazing from Teaja that my sister gave me Christmas. I love it so much that I finished it today. *insert sobbing*
My friends spark a lot of joy, especially for helping me out with my crazy cargo bike situation.
This year we’ve started learning bible verses with the ABC’s bible verses printable found on Pinterest. So with Bible verses and Pinterest spark some joy.
This Otterbox. After having gone through several iPhone cases that have either started to flake (the silicon ones) or just would break I gave into buying the Otterbox. I mean, the cases I bought cost just as much. And it has already passed the test, I drop my phone regularly and it’s been saved up until now by the Otterbox.
RMS Signature Set MOD collection is my favorite item! It’s so compact and natural and vegan (the base is coconut oil). It gives me a bit of natural color without irritating my skin. I did have to look up this tutorial to figure out how to use it best.
So that was it for this month. I could have gone on, so many things to be grateful for, but I wanted to keep this post short and clear.
Have you tried/done any of the things on my list above? Any comments you would like to share? Would love to hear.
Will 2020 finally by the year that I get my driver’s license?
I’m a pretty independent person. I have always been able to get from A to B by bike or public transport. I have visited cities, all by myself or with one of my children simply by relying on anything else but driving a car myself.
Independent person. But yet at 41 years of age, I still haven’t gotten my driver’s license. My daughter who is 25 years old will have hers before I have mine.
Well, it started out with me being a single mom at 18. I lived in the city at that time and had other expenses and worries that took priority.
When I moved to the suburbs I got myself a bike. It became a bit more difficult for me to get around, but still not enough for me to want to get a driver’s license just because I couldn’t really afford the driver’s lessons, let alone a car. Even a used one.
First and last try
Then when I got married, my husband encouraged me to get my driver’s license. one summer we 9he) drove to the South of France and that took us 12 hours and my husband had to pull over an hour away from our destination so he could have a nap. How much easier would it be if I too could drive? I started to feel some guilt about him having to drive all of the time.
So in 2013 when I was pregnant I went to take my theoretical exam and I passed the first time. I could already see myself driving our little one to school and being able to get the groceries myself.
But the plan was for my husband to teach me to drive… That did not work out. My husband was impatient, I was pregnant and hormonal…it was just not a good mix and before you knew it, my learners permit expired. *felt like such a failure*
Fast forward to 2020. I am now, unfortunately, a divorcee, chronically ill and a single mom who lives pretty far from school and the hospital were my doctors are, and after having biked 25 km a day to school and back, (plus having had multiple flat tires for no apparent reason), I am admitting defeat.
I’m studying again. Not so much has changed since 2013 luckily and I remember most things. I will hopefully be able to do the theoretical exam this week.
The next step will then be the driver’s lessons. I will have to take 20 hours of lessons AND THAT’S NOT CHEAP! *praying for the winning lottery ticket*
After the lessons pray some more and try to find an affordable second-hand vehicle and drive on a learner’s permit for 9 months. Then I have to take the practical exam and by the end of 2020 have my driver’s license, if God willing.
Sounds simple enough, eh? But I’m still skeptical. The will is very much there, I long for independence. But nothing seems to come easy to me. I’m sure it won’t be without any (mainly financial) hurdles.
So please tell me I’m not the only 40+ year old without her driver’s license. Can you share with me some positive stories? Prayers are also most welcome, we sure need them. 😅
I just came across this post from the Bored Panda shared on Facebook, 30 minutes after writing this post! We got this!
To you, my child’s teacher, to whom I entrusted my little one a little too early for my taste. You, who every morning when I arrive at the school, have a smile on your face. You confirm to me that I made the right choice. That even though my mother’s heart is heavy to carry when I walk through the door, the most precious thing in my eyes is in good hands.
To you, my child’s teacher, who marks every birthday with sensitivity and celebrates every celebration to the delight of the little ones. Who even goes so far as to push our participation in order to make each experience unforgettable for our babies.
To you, my child’s teacher who simply takes the time. The time to listen to him and me, to prepare with attention the activities of the next day in order to amaze the children, to cook recipes with love and by knowing the preferences of each one. To take the time to comfort one while you must also entertain the other. Taking the time to go outside to play, even if it means dressing them layer after layer or creaming them every ten minutes. At pick-up, take the time to tell each parent about the day in a hurry.
To my child’s teacher, to the one who raises my son, who binds up his scratches when he hurts himself on the playground. I am grateful for all your small attentions and for all your work. To the one who treats my son as if he were her own; thank you for everything.
You are in a profession that demands the best of yourself in order to pass it on to others. A profession that, unfortunately does not get the credit that it deserves. I have spent many hours in your classroom and just keep on being amazed by your abilities and calmness.
And to you, my child’s teacher, my son finds himself in you. I trust your passion, your interest, your skills and your love; thank you for everything.
The end of last year has challenged me to look for tips and products that help reduce food waste because, well…
I’m guilty, I’m guilty. Weekly I’ve been throwing out way too much stuff. It usually starts with the resolution that we are going to eat more healthily. And was we do have healthy meals, I convince myself that during the day I will eat a celery stalk or a radish when hungry…but I usually don’t. I currently have a celery in the fridge whose leaves have already become soft and soggy, so I know that I will be making a soup this afternoon (instead of using it as the snack I bought it for.)
So determined to make a change I have searched the web and my favourite Facebook mommy groups and came up with these tips and products that help reduce food waste.
Freezer marker and (wasi) tape
I freeze in left-overs that are usually enough for just one. This comes in handy for when my daughter of 25 is alone at home. However I realized that I didn’t really keep track of what I was putting in the freezer and when. Nameless meals, which turned out to be something else than what I though when defrosted. Suddenly we ate sweet potato soup with the pasta instead of tomato sauce. I used to stick post-its on the pasta, but they didn’t stick in the freezer. Stickers labels are not my thing as it’s hard to get off .
We have a chalk marker for writing notes on the mirrors or to make designs on the windows, so I though there must be a washable marker to use on containers. As a matter a fact there is, I found a freezer marker on Bol.com by the make of Edding. You can buy them apparently in most craft shops and office shops( I didn’t know).
I also have loads of wasi tape and together with the marker they now make the perfect combo for labelling all kinds of stuff. Scotch tape will do the job just as well by the way, I just like pretty things 🙂 It’s very easy to remove and leaves no residue. Both are standard in our kitchen drawer and are used almost daily. Because now I also put it on jars and packs that I open and that are not empty yet. We have an opening date on everything. You can call me neurotic.
Too Good To Go app
Via the app Too Good To Go (iOS/ Android) you can buy a so-called Magic Box with products that have all reached the THT day. Don’t worry, it’s still safe to eat ! In the larger cities several shops, restaurants and even hotels participate. So I think that must be very interesting to do but in our village unfortunately only one supermarket. I did the test and bought a package for 4.95 EUR. The value of the package was 23.80 EUR, so good deal. But to be honest I found that there were quite a lot of luxury products, which I normally never buy. Also quite a lot of meat, while we as a family want to cut down. The contents were also quite kcal rich, I’ll say, and I missed vegetables, so you can make a full meal out of them. I still like the initiative, but doubt if I will do it again. When you buy products like that, which you don’t normally buy, is it really waste-free? Food for thought, shall we say…
“Eetmaatje” in Dutch as the one I have was created by the nutritional centre of the Netherlands.
It’s a measuring cup for rice, pasta and couscous. The measuring buddy makes it easier to measure portions. So you never have the tendency to cook too much and waste food. It also makes it easier to eat the recommended amount per person. Good for the environment, your health and your wallet! The Dining buddy is free. You only pay the shipping costs.
I only came to hear about them last year. Apparently I’ve been lying under a rock, because I had missed it completely. In 2013, a big crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter raised almost $84,000 in no-time. Now 7 years later, Food Huggers are still being sold. Food Huggers are an environmentally friendly alternative to cling film. They will last a lifetime. Made of safe silicone and free BPA and phthalates. The Huggers can be placed in the dishwasher, freezer and microwave.
The Food Huggers can be applied directly on food, but also indirectly as a lid. There are different sizes of sets.
In Belgium the eco-bio-fair webshop Kudzu sells them. I ordered them. Curious to see if the cling film really hugs the food!
TIP: I heard the other day that Ikea also sells them. Probably of a different quality, but if you are on a budget and want to make a difference why not. I love Ikea btw…LOVE!
In my hunt for Food Huggers I heard about OXO greensavers on a sustainable mothering group I’m in on Facebook. Vegetables and fruit produce ethylene. Ethylene accelerates the ripening process. The Oxo Greensavers absorb the excess ethylene produced, keep the air around the food constantly moving and control the humidity. Oxo uses a (naturally) non-toxic carbon filter of coconut shell, which absorbs the ethylene gas. The active carbon filter lasts 3 months. An adjustable date slider indicates when it is time to replace it.
There are freshener boxes for sale and a freshener for in the vegetable drawer. I chose the latter. With the help of 2 suction cups you stick it in the vegetable drawer. Oxo claims that your fruit and vegetables stay fresh so much longer and you will recoup the investment of 9,95 euro for the holder + 1 carbon filter (or 12,95 euro for 4 refill filters) in no time. I’m going to test it! I’ll let you know!
If you are keen to get your hands on one of these products, keep an eye on my blog as I will soon be organizing my first giveaway! Yay!
Now please give me more tips and products that you know of that help reduce food waste.
All products in the article have been purchased by myself.
Who is Sinterklaas? Saint Nicholas explained, hereby me! A Canadian mom of three living in the Antwerp province of Belgium.”
‘Sinterklaas” and of course “Zwarte Piet”. Maybe you just moved to this side of the globe and wonder who the heck is this guy that you are seeing all over the place in the form of chocolate and speculaas cookies? He kind of looks like Santa, maybe Santa looks like the Pope here in Belgium/Netherlands?
Even though Saint Nicholas brings presents like Santa, there are quite some big differences. And try explaining that to a 6 six-year-old. More about that in another post.
Here in Belgium, it’s a big big thing. It’s quite as magical as growing up with Santa. Books about Saint Nicholas are read in schools. You can see Saint Nicolas arriving from Spain at the Antwerp harbor from your parent’s shoulders or watch it on tv. You can visit him at the mall and sit on his lap, just like Santa. Saint Nicolas even came to read at our local library. And then on the eve of the 6th of December, the children put out one of their shoes, put a carrot in it or some sugar cubes for the beautiful horse of Sinterklaas. Some children like to even put out a bottle of beer for Saint Nick. Quite different from putting out cookies and milk for Santa.
Sinterklaas is a celebration that is celebrated in the Netherlands and Belgium, but where does it actually come from? Have Sinterklaas and Piet always looked like this? And are the Netherlands and Belgium the only countries where it is celebrated? In short, do you know Saint Nicholas? A piece of history.
Saint Nicholas, the saint
Sinterklaas currently lives nice and warm in Spain. Once a year he comes to the Netherlands and Belgium on his steamboat to bring us all presents. However, he has not always lived in Spain, has not always had a steamboat and has not always been called Sinterklaas, but Saint Nicholas.
Saint Nicholas was as the story goes, a monk who was born in the year 280 AD in Asia Minor, now Turkey in the village of Patara. Nicholas was praised in his time for his dedication to his faith and goodness of action. He was a rich man who found joy in giving. Nikolaas was loved by children because he was generous and very friendly to them. He loved doing good deeds, the best-known being that he would have saved 3 sisters from going into slavery and prostitution by giving them a dowry so they could get married. In the course of time, Nicholas grew his popularity and later the church renamed him Saint Nicholas, the saint, patron of both children and sailors.
From Turkey to the Netherlands
The stories of Saint Nicholas became more and more popular and spread over the world via land and sea over time. Sailors took the stories to Italy, where they subsequently spread through Switzerland, Austria, and eventually from Germany to the Netherlands. The journeys made by the stories of St. Nicholas made the story and the face of Sinterklaas change a little to what was celebrated by the people at that time. Sinterklaas, for example, has many similarities with the Germanic god Wodan (also known as Odin). This god flew through the air with a horse and had a large white beard, staff, and red cloak. On his shoulders, he had 2 black ravens who told him about the actions of the people and sometimes he crawled through the chimney of people to scatter seeds in honor of fertility.
A trace of the journey that made the story of Sint Nicholas can be found in different parts of the world. These celebrations show that the sweet story of Sinterklaas that we know today used to have a much darker tone where Piet was sometimes depicted as a demon and where the roe (symbol of fertility) was used to beat women when she left walked down the street.
Such celebrations symbolize the good and the evil and are still celebrated today in countries such as Austria, Switzerland, southern France, Macedonia and even on our own Wadden Islands. These unique celebrations have been preserved because they originated in more isolated places in, for example, mountain villages or on the Wadden Islands where it is more difficult for outsiders to get into local opinion.
Sinterklaas, as he is known to us today, with his loyal servant Zwarte Piet and having a steamboat plus living in Spain, was conceived by the Dutch teacher Jan Schenkman. Jan Schenkman, born in 1806, was the first to write the Sinterklaas story in its current form in a picture book, a story that consists of several books. In his first booklet called “St. Nicholas and his servant,” he gave Zwarte Piet a page suit, clothing worn by squires and introduced new elements such as the steamboat and living in Spain. He also wrote several poems and was the creator of songs such as “Zie ginds komt de stoomboot uit Spanje weer aan“.
From Santa Claus to Santa Claus
For example, the Sinterklaas party as we know it today has come a long way and in its journey, it has been adapted in every place to what best suited the people of that time. Just as the Dutch and Belgians received the Sinterklaas story from their neighbors, so did Dutch immigrants bring the Sinterklaas story by sea to America, from which the Christmas story ultimately emerged. You can find more about the origin of the Christmas story on the website of History.com, follow the link here.
If you did not grow up with Sinterklaas, what were your first thoughts when experiencing this magical time of the year?
How do you explain Sinterklaas or even Santa to your children?
I do not want to lie to my child, but I also do not want to rob him of these magical memory makers and so I’m just waiting until he figures it out himself. If he will ask me at some point whether Sinterklaas exists, I will just simply ask him what he thinks and see from thereon.