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Going door to door with lantern
The Holiday of November 11th

Growing up in the Netherlands as a kid, we didn't celebrate Halloween. While it is now increasingly becoming more and more popular, we had another holiday, that {in my humble opinion}, is just as much fun. Instead of costumes and saying, "Trick or Treat," we have a (usually homemade at school) lantern and sing a fun song before we receive treats in November.

Sint-Maarten (St. Martin) is celebrated on November 11th. The Saint was known for his kindness to strangers and, legend as it, tore his red robe in half with his sword to clothe a beggar.

On the night of November 11th, children go out on the streets with their favorite grownups, sing songs at neighbors houses, and collect treats. It is celebrated in some parts of Europe and elementary-aged kids and their grown-ups usually participate in the holiday. When you are older, you get to stay home and see all the home-made lanterns and pass out the candy, which was always my favorite thing growing up.

Nora had the privilege of celebrating the fun tradition of the holiday when we were in the Netherlands for that time in 2022, as well as the tradition of St. Nicholas. It was fun she got to celebrate the holidays that simply do not exist in the United States. While we didn't get to make our own lantern that time, we sang the songs and got plenty of candy!

Going door to door with lantern on November 11
Going door to door with our lantern on St. Martin's Day.

This year, I brought the tradition back again and let her make her own lantern. I may let her sing a song or two at the neighbor next to us, because I would like to keep the tradition going. She loves it, and asks me if we can go back to "Nederland" soon to participate in it again. While I do love Halloween, I like the tradition of St. Martin better, since it creates light in this world.

Other things the Dutch do during the November/December holiday months are celebrate Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) and TWO Christmas Days (Christmas Eve, 1st and 2nd Christmas Day). We also love to eat lots of oliebollen (comparable to beignets) all season long. The country does not decorate as abundantly as some American homes do during the holidays, but if you ever get a chance, you should visit the light festival in Amsterdam. It is an amazing walking/boat route where you get to see all of the holiday lights of the season. If you ever visit the Netherlands, you can also go to your big local garden centers (tuincentrum) and see the amazing holiday displays there as well (yes, we go all out at garden centers (tuincentrums) like "Intratuin". And then there are the fireworks at New Years Eve. The whole country is lit up, and that is what I probably miss the most out of the holiday season from where I grew up.


Oliebollen, Dutch beignets
Oliebollen, the famous Dutch beignets

It is important for me to have certain Dutch traditions that my daughter can participate in. I think holidays are an important part of childhood. Make the holidays special for them. What fun holiday traditions do you have with your family that are not necessarily part of the "standard" American traditions?


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