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And It's From The Old We Travel To The New (Or - Excuse Me Whilst I skip Straight To New Year's Eve)
I must admit to never really having been a fan of the fuss and hype surrounding Christmas.  In fact, if I could have my way we would treat it like any other day - as in anybody else's birthday.  When was the last time someone decided your birthday was going to be recognised as a Bank Holiday (or even a Statutory one)???  When was the last time the TV and Radio schedules were changed to wall to wall "Birthday Specials" and "End of Year Reviews"???

And don't get me started on the crowds of last minute panic buyers!!!

No - the time when I srart to get excited is around the 27th of December.  Christmas is over and the fun is really going to start for me.

I suppose I will have to attempt to explain what I mean by that.

Even though the last time I went to Holland for New Year's Eve was in 1996 (the year my Oma died) my Dad and I still keep up one of the traditions.

I can still remember the excitement I felt when I knew it was nearly time for our trip to Holland.

In fact, there have been a couple of occassions when I thought I was going to be disappointed because either my parents and I would have had great difficulty getting there (due to my Dad somehow managing to separate a rear axle from his car as he was working on it) or my parents deciding to go over for Christmas instead on what turned out to be the last "Festive Season" my Oma was alive for (for some reason they didn't expect both me and Oma to be unhappy with this idea - we ended up going in our usual time slot).

I remember going over to Holland for Christmas one year when I was really too young to appreciate it.  It was back when Dutch Christmas was a quite, solemn, almost somber (compared to English standards) occassion.

Of course, my Facebook and Twitter tell me that everything has changed now.  The lucky Dutch children now seem to get visited by "Santa Claus" twice in one month.

At the beginning of December they have the original "Santa Claus" (they call him "Sinterklaas" - and he is nothing like our Father Christmas - Sint Nicolaas, or "Sinterklaas" is actually dressed as a Bishop - and he travels on a horse in place of a reindeer-propelled sleigh) - then they now seem to have commandeered (excuse the pun) our Father Christmas (but they call him the "Kerstman" - or "Christmasman").

I don't know what your favourite festive foodstuffs are but - for me - you can keep your mincepies, your Christmas Pudding, and your Christmas Cake (abuse of Marzipan that it is) - my tastes run to something a little different.

Give me a plate with one or more of the following on it and I will be very happy indeed;

A slice of Stolle - yes - I know - it's really German but at least it is not a total waste of marzipan.  It has got marzipan running through it.

A chunk of "Kerstkrans" - Just think of a sausage roll with the sausage meat replaced by marzipan.

A peice of "Speculaas" - Gingerbread with a kick of cinnamon - there is an option to fill it with marzipan as well.

(Do you get the idea I might like marzipan???)

But my all time favourite festive foodstuff is - drumroll - "Oliebollen" - or the original Doughnuts.  You did read that correctly - much as the US would like to claim they invented both Father Christmas and Doughnuts, they are completely wrong.

A properly manufactured "Oliebol" is a fruit doughnut to savour like a fine wine or a liqueur chocolate.

In fact, my Dad has had so much practice at making them they are a little bite of heaven when you sink your teeth into them.

I will let you into a bit of a secret.  My all-time favourite chocolate manufacturer shares their name with one branch of my Mum's family (unfortunately the chocolate manufacturer comes from Zaandam and not Rotterdam - otherwise I would try to find a way of getting free chocolate for life).  The Zaandam "Verkade" is a really famous company in Holland - the Rotterdam Verkades (as in my Mum's cousins) should start up an "Oliebollen factory".  In fact, I remember a barn being used as a factory for the manufacture of Oliebollen and something called "Apple Beignets", among other things.  The barn was part of Tante Jannie's farm in Rotterdam.

My favourite part of the activities may surprise you - mainly because it didn't involve food.  Instead, it involved fireworks.  The Dutch have a massive addiction to bangs, whizzes and bright lights.

The Dutch also have a bit of an addiction to something else - which I share.  Not plants - candles.  If you are in an area prone to powercuts make friends with your friendly local Dutch person.  Seriously - I think my Dad is finally near the end of a parcel of candles which my Oma sent over shortly after my parents moved over here (in 1972).

So - whilst you are enjoying your Christmas festivities don't forget those of us who are looking forward to our fun times.

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