Sunday, November 30, 2008

American Turkey Learns Dutch Traditions

For me, what sets Thanksgiving apart from your average family dinner is the amount of people involved. Being "overseas", to prepare a huge meal for myself, Tobi, and our two small children feels a bit strange. On the other hand, being able to share my American tradition with friends, most of whom have never before had a Thanksgiving meal, is something special.

And, this year, I have to admit that I'm quite proud of myself. In the past, whenever I've cooked a large meal, I've solicited help for a good portion of the dishes. The meal I prepared last Thursday, however, involved a roasted turkey with a Brown Sugar Mustard Glaze, stuffing made from home-made bread, self-made whole-berry cranberry sauce, sweet potato casserole, stewed green beans, a green salad, pumpkin pie, and homemade mac-and-cheese for the children. Best of all, the only thing I got help with was the gravy. Can you believe it?

Everything was delicious (if I do say so myself), and we talked about the origin of Thanksgiving, and the traditions surrounding it (i.e. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade).

But what made this Thanksgiving celebration so unique was the fact that our guests arrived with a huge present-filled twill sack from none other than Sinterklaas (whose name was stamped on the side), full of thoughtfully-wrapped gifts for the kids (and a couple for us).

For those of you unfamiliar with Benelux traditions (as this holiday is also widely observed in Belgium), Sinterklaas arrives on a boat (from Spain) towards the end of November with his helpers, or "Zwarte Piets". He sometimes briefly meets with the children that have come to watch the processsion in a sort of year-end-review, discussing whether they're in his naughty or nice book (much like "Santa Clause"). Finally, on the evening of December 5th, he'll deliver presents to each child's home, sometimes making a special appearance (mysteriously, in the father's absence -- sound familiar?).

Not surprisingly, here in Holland, Sinterklaas is a much bigger deal than Christmas, which basically just embodies a decorated tree.

These are the Dutch traditions that our American (inspired) turkey shared in this year. Where will next year's turkey find himself?


Viera said...

Liz, we do not celebrate Thanksgiving, but couple times last weekend my thoughts went to you. I was thinking how do you celebrate overseas and I enjoyed reading your story.Its so good to have nice friends around.
I am sure the dinner was PERFECT.Well done.
We still keep the tradition of celebrating St. Claus on 6.dec. We call it S. Mikulas (Nickolas) L&G! clean their shoes evening before put them in the window and in the morning they find small presents.
Have a great week. Love V

Mom said...

Liz (Elise),

I enjoyed reading the story of your wonderfully combined holiday traditions. You have really come in to your own as a chef! Cooking and baking all that food (and so well) is a quite a feat and you should pat yourself on the back!