First and Second Christmas Day in the Netherlands


On Christmas morning in the Netherlandsoliebollen many families attend church services especially if they did not attend the previous night.  After church services they return home for Koffietafel, coffee table, an elaborate brunch consisting of such things as smoked salmon or pate and Kerstkrans (a pastry similar to Banketletter shaped like a large wreath decorated with lemon icing, candied fruit, holly, and a red bow).  Families in most areas do not exchange gifts on Christmas day; but for those families who do, especially in the southern regions, Father Christmas brings the gifts.

Because Christmas day is a holiday of family togetherness, many families will either visit the homes of family and friends or entertain family and friends at their homes.  They will talk, play board games, listen to the radio or other recordings, watch television, attend concerts or ballets, and sing and play Christmas carols.  Throughout the day they will snack on Kerstbrood, a sweet bread filled with raisins, currants, and candied fruit peel then dusted with powdered sugar.  If the weather is cold enough during the month of December the family will go to the rivers and canals to enjoy some ice skating.

At approximately 7:00 P.M. Christmas dinner is served.  Poinsettias, holly, fresh flowers, and other Christmas greenery may decorate the table.  In many families either the youngest person or the oldest person at the table reads the Christmas story from the Bible before the meal begins.  The meal may begin with Bitterballen (small croquettes of finely minced veal or beef in an herb-laced gelatin), cocktail meatballs, Zoute Bolletjes or salted bullets (salty dabs of pastry baked to a fine crunch), Groentensoep (vegetable soup), Erwtensoep (pea soup) sometimes served with little fried meatballs, Mossel-Rijstschotel (and Indonesian-style casserole of mussels over cream-smothered rice), Haringsla (herring salad), and Matjes (salted herring).

The main course may consist of rolled beef, roast hare, roast goose, or roast venison.  Turkey is gaining popularity on the Christmas table.  Pureed potatoes seasoned with a variety of spices is also a popular item.  In many homes the Christmas dinner is served using a table-top grill.  Each guest cooks their own bite-sized pieces of meat and vegetables as they eat.  Popular Christmas desserts in the Netherlands are Bessensappudding (tart currant pudding), cookies, and chocolates.

The people of the Netherlands also celebrate Second Christmas Day, December 26.  This is a day to reach out to friends and do things outside the home.  Many people attend performances both professional and amateur at churches, concert halls, and auditoriums.  These performances may be choral, instrumental, or theatrical in nature.  Churches and schools offer choral presentations and Christmas plays often depicting the story of the Nativity.  Families living in and around Rotterdam may attend the Ahoy Kerstcircus (Christmas circus) featuring a live band, aerial acts, animal acts, and clowns.  This circus has performed annually since 1917.

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Oliebollen  (I would love to try these.  They sound good.)

SERVINGS 36

PREP TIME 20 mins  

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped apple (optional)
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Cooking oil for deep-fat frying
  • Sifted powdered sugar

Directions

1.  In a large bowl, stir together flour, granulated sugar, baking powder, and salt; stir in the raisins and, if you like, apple. Make a well in the center. Combine eggs, milk, the 1/4 cup cooking oil, and the vanilla; add to flour mixture. Mix thoroughly.

2.  In a large saucepan or deep-fat fryer, drop by tablespoons, 3 or 4 at a time, into deep, hot oil (365 degree F). Cook about 3 minutes or until golden, turning once. With a slotted spoon, transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 36.

 

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