Holidays

Ca-SHEW! (Or: The sound of a nut sneezing?)

Marco and I spotted this amusing joke at FOAM‘s breakfast / lunch restaurant:

Cute, huh?

Unfortunately the number of coronavirus infections are increasing again; we’re back at around 6,100 after hitting a low of around 4,700 earlier this week (article at nltimes.nl).

In other news: Billion euros raised to extend Amsterdam subway to Schiphol Airport, also from nltimes.nl. I’ve always in favor of more public transportation options from the airport to your destination. Of course it will be years before that project is completed.

And a few days ago I reported on Sinterklaas’ plan to arrive at a non-existent village to prevent crowds of parents and kids from going there in these corona times. That’s the national Sinterklaas, but a lot of cities have their own local Sinterklaases as well. Check out this blog post that I wrote about the 2013 parade in The Hague.

Well, this year the story is that the boat of Sinterklaas had some favorable winds during its journey from Spain to The Hague’s harbor, so he unexpectedly arrived early. The mayor advised him to go into a short quarantine at an undisclosed location, which he did. Sinterklaas will receive a corona test on Saturday so that he can participate in Sunday’s parade (which children can watch on TV at home). Read more (in Dutch) at omroepwest.nl.

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Sinterklaas to dock at Zwalk this year (Or: Wait. Where is that again?)

Here’s another thing that has changed this year due to the corona crisis: Sinterklaas will arrive in Zwalk this year. But good luck finding it, because Zwalk doesn’t exist on any maps.

That’s right – the organization behind Sinterklaas (a Dutch holiday celebrated on December 5) has cleverly chosen to have him arrive in a fictional town. That way you avoid any crowds and super spreader events. Usually 20,000-30,000 children and parents watch him arrive in a different city each year. Of course, everything was probably taped a month or two ago, but this way you prevent any and all traffic to the town.

This news was announced during the first episode of the Sinterklaasjournaal (literally “Sinterklaas news”) last night. That is a 10 minute program that will air daily until December 5. (Side note: there are so many toy commercials before and after this show – it is insane!).

The mayor of the fictional town asked children to send their drawings to Sinterklaasjournaal so that they could take part in the fun without being there physically.

The lady on the right is Dieuwertje Blok, the presentator of the show. The show is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year – and she has been the presentator since the beginning.

Here is an article in English from dutchnews.nl: Sinterklaas to dock at fictional location on Saturday, but tv cameras will be there

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A bit early, but still pretty (Or: Christmas decorations)

Hotel Huis ter Duin has put up the ‘tallest Christmas tree of the Randstad area’. The tree is 17 meters tall (55 feet). It is of course a bit too early to be thinking about Christmas decorations – but not really. Check out this video:

We haven’t put up the Christmas tree yet, but we do have one or two things out. Including a painting we brought last year (complete with LED lights):

We found it in a pop-up Christmas store in Eindhoven. It looks nice, doesn’t it?

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Bijenkorf 2020 Christmas displays (Or: A piece of normal)

Marco and I decided to risk it and go to Xenos and Bijenkorf (a high end department store) today. It was probably the first time I stepped foot in Bijenkorf this year. And actually it wasn’t too bad. I thought it it would be really busy, especially on a Sunday afternoon, but Xenos was actually busier.

Bijenkorf had an interesting setup for the escalators: pieces of cardboard taped to the side of the escalator which reminded you to stand on the other side (as far away as possible from the opposite escalator). While they are taped securely to the elevator it was done in such a way that someone standing on the wrong side won’t rip them out. I didn’t take a photo, however.

The good news is that the Christmas section isn’t that busy on November 1st. Who knew?

“At the North Pole” display
Continue reading
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Rainy days (Or: Soundtrack against the window)

It is another rainy day, although that seems to matter less when you are working from home. Luckily it was dry when I went out this morning to do some grocery shopping. Otherwise it is a pretty quiet Thursday and we’re just counting the days (or day) until the weekend.

Here are some of the stories that I’ve seen in the news lately:

  • Coronavirus reporting again hit by IT issues but growth does seem to have slowed by dutchnews.nl. The issues occurred twice in the past week, meaning that the number of cases reported was inaccurate. They aren’t missing any data, it just comes a day or two later than it should. The last few days the number of cases has only risen by a little bit (we’re just over 10,000). What really matters, however, is getting the hospital intakes down so that more people leave the hospital than enter it. And we are not quite there yet.
  • Pumpkin sales up but Halloween celebrations squashed, also from dutchnews.nl. As noted previously, Halloween is not as big a tradition over here, but Amsterdam has still sent out warnings that trick or treating should not take place this year.
  • Rembrandt’s Night Watch to be 3D-scanned before restoration from nltimes.nl. The restoration is not happening behind closed doors (although it is behind glass). The team has spent most of this year investigating the painting and they will hopefully begin the restoration process earlier next year. You can also view the painting interactively online with the Rijksmuseum’s Experience the Night Watch tour.
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Christmas displays (Or: The view at CASA)

CASA is a home goods store on the Grote Marktstraat. I decided to take a few photos of their Christmas display for you:

And here’s a look from the escalator:

I don’t think it will be that much longer before we put up our Christmas tree. We’re home a lot these days, so why not make it extra festive?

In other news:

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That’s pretty clever (Or: A wall of chocolate letters at Hema)

Marco took this photo for me of the Hema in The Hague’s city centre. It shows a wall of chocolate Sinterklaas letters being used to block off what was formerly the entrance to Hema’s restaurant:

Hema’s restaurant is closed right now due to the corona regulations in the Netherlands. All restaurants and cafés are closed with the exception of takeaway. But takeaway doesn’t make much sense at the Hema restaurant so it is completely closed.

And what better way is there to to block off an entrance? It’s quite clever – it immediately makes the space more festive and takes attention away from the reasons why it needed to be closed in the first place. Here’s a look at the store when the restaurant redesign first opened back in early 2015:

You can see the store in the background

If you need a refresher on Sinterklaas letters, they are literally large letters of chocolate, from A all the way to Z. They usually come in the flavors milk, dark, white and hazelnut. They are either plain or covered in fancy designs. If they are a gift for someone, then you normally buy the letter that corresponds with the first letter of the receipt’s name (N for Niki, and so forth). Or a lot of people buy “S” for Sinterklaas. But be warned: if you wait until the day before Sinterklaas to buy one, there will probably only be Q’s left!

Sinterklaas is celebrated on 5 December. It is a children’s holiday (mostly…), celebrated with gifts, poems and good food. You can read more at dutchnews.nl with the “Ten things you need to know to celebrate Sinterklaas” list.

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Christmas time? (Or: The first trees are already sold)

Christmas in October anyone? Our public broadcaster (NOS) is reporting that Christmas trees are beginning to sell: Kerstverkopen dit jaar niet pas ná Sinterklaas, eerste mensen halen al bomen (Christmas purchases this year not waiting until after Sinterklaas [December 5], first people already purchasing trees).

This is to be expected; people are working from home more often and most people won’t be going on holiday this year. I read somewhere that some people are purchasing multiple Christmas trees so that they have one for each room. The only rule I have is that we need to wait until November before we bring out the Christmas decorations. November 1st, that is…

Princess Amalia, and 100,000 other Dutch girls, get their call up papers from dutchnews.nl. Active military service was abolished in 1997, however the letters are still sent to 17 year olds to inform them about a possible career in the military. Letters were also sent to 17 year old girls (the law was changed back in 2018 to send to all, not just boys).

Amsterdam to use flowers to stop cyclists chaining bikes to bridges from theguardian.com. Like it or not, bikes do get in the way often. And one of the places you will always, always see bikes is chained to a canal bridge. The worst part? It doesn’t just spoil the view, it also leaves less room for pedestrians which means they are more likely to walk in the road.

Personally I don’t remember having this issue in Amsterdam but I did experience it in Utrecht. I felt like I was walking in the street at least half of the time, which definitely wasn’t fun.

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Alcohol versus drugs (Or: Differences during partial lockdown)

As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog post, normally it is perfectly fine in the Netherlands to have alcohol outside (both in your possession and to consume it). Of course, there are some exceptions – the decision is made by each city and written into their rules. But the Dutch government said yesterday that during the partial lockdown you are not allowed to buy alcohol after 20:00 and you can be fined for having it in your possession or consuming it outside after 20:00.

Originally the same rule applied to soft drugs (5 grams or less of marijuana, weed, that kind of stuff) during the partial lockdown, but various news outlets are now reporting that the rule has been lifted for soft drugs because it contradicts the already existing rule about soft drug use. So it is again legal to have and use a (very small) amount of soft drugs after 20:00, but not drink alcohol outside. See also this article in Dutch from parool.nl. This country is a bit weird sometimes!

I will also note that dutchnews.nl has a nice article about why there is such a legal issue with making face masks mandatory and handing out fines for skipping quarantine. Spoiler alert: even emergency laws are not allowed to restrict fundamental rights as laid out in the Dutch constitution, so an act of parliament would need to be passed.

And for something light-hearted: Lichtjesavond Delft gaat door met thuispakket en live-uitzending from omroepwest.nl. In other words, Delft’s December light festival will go ahead without spectators, but it will be shown live on TV. The festival is where a few thousand lights on a Christmas tree are turned on at the same moment. Think National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Oh, and if you really want to get into the spirit you can order an extra package with local products, chocolate milk, a game to play after the broadcast, etc.

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Anyone up for gourmetten? (Or: Fun times in October)

Another “Wow. Is it that time already?” type posts. Next week’s Albert Heijn discount flyer includes discounts on meat for gourmetten. In October. Does anyone remember if that is actually normal?

Like my post about the Christmas display at the CASA store, I am not against this. However, gourmetten is a social activity so you’re more likely to invite people over to your house. Which doesn’t sound that good in corona times.

New Year’s Eve 2013

But, one step back: there’s no good translation of gourmetten in English, but it is sort of like an indoors barbecue. You have a special grill or baking plate which you place in the centre of the table. You can grill almost anything you want (meat, fish, veggie meat, bell peppers, mushrooms, pineapples…). Generally the meat goes on the top. There are also 6 to 8 slots underneath with ‘little pans’ where you put the more fragile stuff like veggies and mushrooms, or even pancake batter to make pancakes. Add some baguette bread with butter and other toppings and you are set for the evening. But generally gourmetten is very popular at Easter, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, not in October. (Or sometimes you can request it for your birthday. I think I did that one year!)

Christmas 2012 (check out the mini pans underneath)

Hmmm. Gourmetten, anyone?

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