Ping! My WhatsApp just had another message and it loosely read: Parents, here is one last announcement, “a Christmas Fashion Show is organized for the children after their Christmas dinner in the class. It would be great to practice with your child tonight so they can be ready to enter the catwalk tomorrow evening.” Hmmm, a kids’ fashion show? I thought I was in the Netherlands where nobody bothers about these things.
During the Christmas season, one of the traditions in schools is the ‘kerstdiner’ or Christmas dinner where kids (as young as 4) have a ‘gezellig (cozy) afsluiting’ (closing) of the year. In other countries, like the Philippines, it is the traditional Christmas Party where they eat mostly spaghetti or noodles, cake, and fried chicken. There are also exchange gifts and fun parlor games. But in the Netherlands, the kerstdiner is a sort of toned-down but fun time with the kids’ little classmates, eating together while in their evening best. Parents are asked to bring food from a prepared list, usually simple ones like French bread, breadsticks, mini sausages and pizzas, tomatoes, cucumbers, fruits and juice—no soft drinks and sweets and definitely no fried chicken or other hot meals. The Dutch always keep it modest when it comes to food and preparation for parties.
I find this tradition amusing. It gives the children a time to enjoy a real dinner with their classmates without the prying eyes of parents and for one night, they feel how it is to have a special time with each other.
This reminds me of the book I am just reading, ‘The Happiest Kids in the World’, which explains from a point of view of a non-native Dutch how and why the kids in this country are happier than the rest. First, the Dutch like to keep everything simple. A birthday party consists only of a cake, a few fruits, tomaatjes (mini-tomatoes) and mini-komkommers (cucumbers) and lemonade. The idea is not so much putting effort into food but for the kids to just have fun playing and talking.
There are the second, third, fourth and so on reasons why Dutch kids are happier but I like the fact that also in the Netherlands, the competition among parents is almost non-existent; no super-moms or super-dads, no pressuring the kids to excel and if you do, it is up to you and not any parent’s concern.
Going back to the ‘kerstdiner’ that my 5-year-old son will have tomorrow, I do hope that this tradition will be kept in its purest form without the trappings of the bling-blings. J
From my family to yours, Prettige Kerstdagen en een Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar! Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!