Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Before Christmas

Actually, this post was supposed to be about the Christmas markets in Köln, Germany, from when we were there a couple weeks ago, but...too much has happened since then.  Köln can wait...till next week.  HA!

Christmas starts in the Netherlands on Sinterklaasdag, 5 December, which by now you know, surely.  In fact, Astrid squirms if I have the Christmas tree up before the 5th because, well, you're just not supposed to do it.  The kids, you know.  Gotta pay attention to the kids and what they expect.

So, speaking of the kids....

...early morning on Wednesday the 5th, we heard a racket outside.
The elementary school across the street had visitors:  Sinterklaas and his Black Peters.
See how handy that 300mm lens is from the walkway out our front door!

On Sinterklaasdag this year I celebrated  my 3rd anniversary of arriving in the Netherlands.  That means this is my 4th Christmas here!  And every year I say the same thing:  I LOVE that the day of gifts, December 5, is a different day from December 25th, the birth of Baby Jesus!

So, though Astrid and I usually give each other "only" our Christmas meal out on the 25th in our nearby Greek restaurant, overlooking the big canal through town, this year we did in fact give each other gifts:

From Astrid to me, the 3 Van Dale dictionary books for kids!
And my New Year's resolution is to start studying them in earnest.
Small steps will help, you know.
2 of the 3 books Astrid bought on sale through the Dutch site, similar to 

From me to Astrid:  2 tickets to a Christmas concert at the St. Martinuskerk in Amersfoort (ca. 30 miles away) though the Dutch VakantieVeilingen auction site...where I got the tickets for €21+€5 fee=€26, a fraction of the real price.  The thing is, Christmas concerts are NOT free in Europe.  Tickets can cost between €45-75 each.  So this was a good deal!

And look at what we saw (too bad you can't also hear it):

 We got to the church an hour early and once the doors were opened, I had a chance to take pictures.
But before the concert started, a kind gentleman said to just not take pictures during the concert.
(Hold that thought!)

This was a concert with 2 well-known Dutch pianists:  Cor Bakker and Louis van Dijk.
AND a vocal group called CALL.  Yes, you got it.  The Vocal Group CALL.
It's led by Pieter Jan Leusink, who's in a couple images above.

Now, skip to the intermission (remember, no pictures during the concert).
Cor and Louis and some choir members went to the back of the church to sell their CDs.

I moved in as closely as I could get!

Cor is the tall one; Louis is the one with the red scarf.

And luckily I got some close-ups of some choir members.

All this while the rest of the concert-goers could enjoy refreshment.

And then it was time to go back to our which time Peter, the PR man for the concert series, 
came to me offering a trip to the organ loft in the back of the church to take pictures from on high.
Are you kidding me?  I was a kid in heaven!

 Look what I saw from up there!  And thank God again for the long lens.
(The bottom 2 right images are back down on earth!)

After all that, both Peter and Gerard (the church's PR man) asked me to send them my images.
I did.  And look what Gerard did on his church's website!
Click further and you see he included all my collages!

SO, how's that for really getting into the Christmas spirit!  WOWSER for me.

We even had some snow on 2 different days....

...enough for someone (???) to make a snowman in our courtyard.
Goed Gekeurd = Well Approved (the sign on the snowman).

 After Sinterklaasdag all the goodies go on sale and Ginnie stocks up.  I'm no dummy!
We LOVE speculaas "windmill" cookies with our evening koffie after supper.
At €,25/package, we have enough to sink a ship last awhile.
The ones I normally buy are the little ones (bottom middle).  Look at the size difference!
And did I mention with almonds???!!!

And finally, last but not least....

...guess who was the Rummicub Champion for the second year in a row!
Speaking of size difference, everything is looking up this year!
(click on any image to enlarge)

Now, barring something unforeseen, next week I hope to take you to the Christmas market in Köln, just before Christmas!

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

All our hearts are broken over the shooting in Newtown, CT, last week.  I had just written the draft for my Vision and Verb post today and was stunned by how it all fit in....

 Please join me there for the conversation.


  1. I'm tickled pink you are a "rule breaker" when appropriate :) And I'm sure you will be reading those children books soon enough. Gonna hop on over to V&V now.

    1. Thank you, Margaret! :) My work is cut out for me when it comes to all 3 of those books!!!

  2. Sinterklaas and Christmas are two totally different things. Sinterklaas is 'holy' to us, and holy in the meaning of, please let us celebrate OUR Sinterklaas in the way it has been done for decades. I just was at V&V and I talked about 'live and let live'. Some people who are a guest in our country have problems with our celebrating Sinterklaas. They forget it is our culture.
    The Christmas concert was just fabulous. I am a big fan of Cor and Louis and to be able to attend a concert of them was a wish coming true. I love it for you that you were able to get these fabulous shots, during the concert.
    Jij bent mijn kampioentje, you are my champion :) I am proud of you with the Rummicub.
    I still can giggle about the speculaas, indeed we have enough to sink a ship...but I love them too, they taste great on a slice of bread......
    Absolute wonderful post again.

    1. I am learning so many wonderful things here in your country, MLMA! Your traditions are becoming mine...and mine are becoming yours, the way it should be. We live and learn together. The children's books will hopefully make a dent in my language-learning experience this next year! That's my goal, trust me. :) Thank you! We have so many wonderful memories!

  3. The books are such a great idea, I hope you enjoy them!

    As for Sinterklaasdag, I remember a Dutch friend writing me a lovely poem for that day, I'm not sure whether that was just his tradition or whether many Dutch people do it, but the whole of Sinterklaasdag seems so much more meaningful with less hype and consumerism.

    1. Oh yes, Anne. Before you open your gift you have to read the poem OUT LOUD from the giver. It's usually a funny, corny poem. I LOVE this tradition. So much more meaningful than what I remember. Lots of time is spent on the poem and gift. You have a good Dutch memory of your own. :)

  4. What a spectacular place to enjoy a concert!! Good for you, getting to go up high for those awesome shots, too. Really made me crave some of those windmill cookies!
    Thanks for sharing it all ... oh, that is a very cool snowman that someone made!

    1. I ofrten say this, Susan, but you and Larry would have a heyday here. I can just picture you wandering around the Netherlands, stopping here-n-there as something catches your eye. One day maybe we'll meet you here! And we'll give you as many windmill cookies as you want! :)

  5. I could imagine the good music you heard at that concert. Still a little numb from the sad news last week. Hugs to you and Astrid and happy holidays.

    1. Good music, yes, Maria. And numb these days since, yes. Thanks for the holiday wishes. The same to you and hubby.

  6. What a great post, Ginnie! I loved to look at your pictures and read all the details. Wow! To be asked to go to the organ loft for picture taking! You did well with your photos – taken as we say “sur le vif” (Google Translate it as “on the spot” but that is not the same, sur le vif means as if they were alive.) Your pictures look alive so that is why they used all of them on their church website – because it gave a good realistic reflection of the evening. You are also a great bargain finder – the tickets – the cookies…so much fun to read this post.

    1. Thank you for your most kind and generous words, Vagabonde. I love this hobby I have and am lucky I have the time for it! You, too! We're a bit like two peas in a pod...even with getting good deals on things. HA!

  7. I am peeking in at your life here Ginnie and am envious of your close community and your easy access to culture. You tell a story so well both in your photos and words.....I am there with you, only missing out on the obviously glorious music! Now I am off to explore more of this world here:~))

    1. You have sure made my day, Catherine, by visiting me where I attempt to chronicle my life on this side of the Big Pond. If I didn't stay on top of it, I'm afraid it would all be a big blur! Thank you!

  8. I can feel the energy in that church, Boots! As always, you capture it with your lens, documenting even the joy and celebration. Superb! Congrats on the Rummikub (you?). And the snow! We have had none on the ground yet. :( I hope there will be some for Christmas, of course. Our temps are 15-20 degrees (F) warmer than normal for this time of year. I want winter!

    1. Thank you, sweet sister. And by now you know that we're also receiving free tickets to another concert by this same group in 2013...probably Mozart's Requiem in February...maybe in Amsterdam? It makes all the "work" on my images worth it!

      The snow we had didn't last long but I LOVED seeing it fall. I wish for you snow SOON...and maybe more for us, too!

    2. It is snowing now, quite forcefully, and windy too! I would love it more if the Jameses were not planning to drive our way this morning, and if Inge and I did not have plans go to AA for our yearly trek (while the Jameses are at Don's school's Christmas party!). All this may be for nought, which makes me say, Be careful what you wish for. :}

    3. Ohhhhhhh, SNOW! And yes, now let's just hope and pray everyone stays safe-n-sound. I'll be thinking of you all. Take some great pictures of that dear little boy in the snow!!!

  9. I always love following your activities with Astrid! I love learning about your country and seeing all the fun things you two do together. Love, love, love! Save some cookies for me! :) xoxo

    1. Believe it or not, Robin, we even saved Glühwein for you for October and then never drank it! Definitely...cookies for you! :) And now that you've been here, you can see why I love to keep track of everything! Thanks for joining the ride!

  10. Ginnie, not having music you were listening to at the concert, I'm listening to music offered on the church's website whose link you've provided. It's glorious, thank you!!

    I bet the long lens you shoot with opens many doors to you and when your photos follow, no one is disappointed. :) It's great that your photos find their own way.

    1. How wonderful that you opened up the link to listen to the misic, Petra. Thank you. And yes, usually people think I'm with the newspaper, so I do seem to get special privileges. I always send my images to those concerned...and some appreciate them, like these two gentlemen. It means the world to me and is worth all the time I spend on them. I like how you put it: [my] photos find their own way. Indeed.

  11. Ah, Sinterklaas. In Germany it's Nikolaus who comes in the night, filling the boots for the children with sweets and fruit and sometimes little gifts. Often he is accompanied by Knecht Ruprecht, who was for the "naughty" kids (well, define "naughty"...). Christmas is still bigger than Nikolaus in Germany, but I love this tradition nevertheless and have kept it here in California for our daughter.
    Back in Germany we had free Christmas concerts - not all of them, but quite some. Here in the States I still have to find a free Christmas concert, haven't succeeded in that in almost 12 years. Even the sing-along Messiah is not for free...
    And what did you hear in the concert? Did I miss that... (would be so typical for me, so please forgive my question).
    Have a wonderful Christmas, Ginnie. We'll be celebrating Christmas Eve.

    1. And I know you celebrate Nikolaus on the 6th, the day after the Dutch Sinterklaas. I can fully understand why you still keep that tradition, even in America, Carola. I wish America separated the giving of gifts from the actual Christmas day. It would help people remember better the reason for the season, I think!

      The concert was of all the wonderful grand Christmas songs that have stood the test of time, like O Holy Night, Ave Maria, etc. It was wonderful! I grew up going to free Christmas concerts. Can't remember what Atlanta does now???

  12. Wow oh wow! That is so great that you got to take all of those photos and they wanted to publish on their website... And yes I can understand concerts are expensive. And champion again, congrats! I bet that feels good... Busy for sure.. Like you with the studying of the words, I need to do the same for Cammie's sake... Ah... :)

    1. I'm so glad your computer is back and that you're able to communicate again, Jen. I've missed you. And yes, I know you understand all these things!