Because I didn’t live with my mother past age eleven, there weren’t any family traditions passed on to me. My father was busy working and didn’t have a lot of time to spend with his family. Since I’m not in contact with any of my family members, I can’t learn from them either. I went through my photo album but didn’t discern any family traditions – except for one. Every year my father would bake me an apple pie for my birthday, usually with my age spelt out in dough on top. He continued doing this for a long time. It was a tradition I loved, even though I missed out on fancy cakes with figurines on top like my classmates had. I’m not sure I even really loved it as a kid, but looking back, I can see how special it was.
Another thing stood out: we would always go on vacation. Never far away, always within The Netherlands, but we would go nonetheless.
I remember for eight years in a row we went to the same establishment near the beach. We would rent a cottage for two weeks. Once there, we would have many outings to the beach, to the small town we stayed in and to cities nearby. I always enjoyed myself.
Sometimes we would also rent a cottage in a forest area during autumn or spring for a weekend or midweek. This too was a lot of fun.
I call it a tradition from my past because it’s something we stopped doing. We never go on vacation anymore. My husband hates not sleeping in his own bed. We also have four cats to take care of. It’s not entirely my husband’s fault. I’m not so eager to arrange it all, and a vacation is often expensive. I do miss it. It might be something to consider after Covid.
We have no religious traditions in my family. My mother’s family was Roman Catholic, my father’s family, well, nothing. I wasn’t raised with any religion, apart from being baptized and going to church with Easter and Christmas occasionally.
All I’ve taken from my family is the love for things spiritual. My paternal grandmother was into all things spiritual and wanted me to join in her footsteps. I read the tarot cards now and then. Since last week I’ve also picked up my daily meditations again. The practice makes me calmer and better equipped to deal with the current lockdown and curfew.
Our holiday traditions are also scarce. A national tradition is ‘gourmetten.’ It’s a dinner where the table is stacked with small pieces of raw meat, like mini-hamburgers. In the centre of the table is a heating device with little pans and you can bake the meat yourself. Next to this are bowls with salads and of course many snack sauces.
I also succumbed to the pressure and apply this tradition every Christmas when my mother- and sister in law come over. Only once did I make a full Christmas dinner by myself, but all I remember is being mightily stressed out, and then there are always people who don’t like what you have made. To me, gourmetten is the perfect solution with little work for the host, and there’s always something for everyone.
As I wrote before in my post about the Top 2000, that phenomenon has become a tradition in my country. It feels like something we have adopted as a tradition for lack of something better, in all honesty. But it’s a wonderful tradition and one I always look forward to. It begins with voting for your favourite songs in the first week of December and continues with listening to these songs when number 2000 is played on December 25th. The love of music brings people together, even last year when no parties were possible.
My mother in law does keep another tradition which she shares with the Northern region of The Netherlands. It’s baking ‘kniepertjes’. They are sweet, thin, crispy cookies that are meant to bake yourself so you can give them to friends and family on January 1st. At least, that’s what I have learned over the years. My family wasn’t originally from these parts, so it’s not a tradition in my family. I think it’s a fun tradition and one that I plan on continuing on.
Few Traditions Left
Here in The Netherlands, and really all of the Western world, we are an individualistic society with little communal traditions left. We don’t go to church anymore, family ties aren’t as important as they used to be. Life feels a bit empty because of this, also because I seem to have lost the few traditions I did have in my life. I think it’s time for me to cherish the few I have left and maybe bring in some new ones where possible. I will definitely go on a holiday again once we are passed this pandemic. And, who knows, maybe even bake a birthday special apple pie too 🙂