Not being with your family during special holidays can be quite hard, especially when this day is not celebrated in your expat country. This was the case for me last weekend. The 6th of December is the celebration of Saint Nicholas in several countries and in The Netherlands this is probably one of the biggest holidays we have. I will explain you a little bit about the Dutch tradition. Saint Nicholas (or Sinterklaas, as we call him) is a good, very old guy who arrives from Spain every year in the middle of November. Nobody really knows why he is living in Spain, but it is a funny coincidence. From the moment that he arrives you can write him letters with your wishes. You put these letters in your shoe in front of the chimney (if you don’t have a chimney, don’t worry :)), together with a carrot for Saint Nicholas’ horse or a drawing for him and his helpers. The helpers of Sinterklaas pick this letter up for you, and in the night from the 5th to the 6th of December Sinterklaas brings you what you wished for. At least, if you have been a good kid, if not, he might take you in his bag all the way to Spain.
This night is one of the most celebrated and coziest nights of the year. The whole family gets together and you eat chocolate, candies and you sing typical songs. If you don’t sing, no presents! But, in Spain they do not know this tradition. So, what to do?
It is quite impossible to keep this tradition alive when you are far away from your home, but this doesn’t mean that you have to forget or ignore these special dates. You just have to adapt them to your new home country. For Saint Nicholas it is very normal to receive a big chocolate letter of the first letter of your name. Obviously, I couldn’t find these letters in any shop here and when Jordi saw how sad this made me, he came up with an idea. Let’s make some letters ourselves! So, we bought some special chocolate, melted it and formed our very own letters, by putting the melted chocolate over a big piece of ice. They were delicious.
Of course, I couldn’t expect Sinterklaas to come all the way to Catalonia to give me some presents. He has enough work to do in The Netherlands. So, I had to treat myself a little bit. On the 5th we went shopping and we bought a Christmas tree plus all the decoration that goes with it. For me, a Christmas tree is essential and I was very happy with this present for myself. On the morning of the 6th, Jordi got up and went to get some churros and we had them for breakfast with some delicious chocolate. Another present!
As you can read, my Sinterklaas experience has been quite different from the one that I was used to at home. But this doesn’t mean it was any less good. As an expat it will always be difficult to celebrate your holidays that are unknown in your new country, but this doesn’t mean that we should just forget about them. Just think about the typical things you do and try to do them with the resources that your new home offers you. Can’t find any chocolate letters? Make them yourself. No typical songs on the radio? Sing them yourself! All you need is a little creativity.