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Sinterklaasavond 2014

Sinterklaasavond, also known as Pakjesavond, the evening of Gouda family, food, and presents. It's a Dutch thing, and if you put your wooden shoes by the front door, and happen to live on a canal, the pakjesboot might glide right up and leave you a chocolate coin, or coal, if you've earned it.

We don't do it quite right in our house. For one thing, the tradition in Europe includes celebrating on the night of December 5, the eve of Saint Nicholas Day, but we celebrate it whenever we find room in our calendars nearest to that date. This year that was today, December 7, but being a few days late didn't hurt our party any. Every year our local family has humored us, joining us for Flemish stew and bringing fun things like Gouda cheese, and Flemish beer and appetizers. It makes this a kind of kick-off party for our season of holiday festivities, and we look forward to it every year.

Another thing that we do wrong is the present giving. We often forget to put out or shoes, or to fill them even if we do, and there are never chocolate coins involved. We do exchange packages that have become a tradition for us, though: every year there are Christmas pajamas, new Christmas music, and a new Christmas book. These are traditions we started when Calvin was born, along with our Sinterklaasavond tradition, and have kept up since. Of course that means we have an embarrassing number of Christmas songs in our collection, and we are running out of room in our Christmas book box, but we love this tradition and have discovered some great art in the process. Who knewthat L. Frank Baum was responsible for much of the literary tradition surrrounding Santa Claus, or that Lou Rawls had released such a great Christmas album that has been buried for decades beneath the plethera of modern pop remakes.

We love our traditions, and how the season most full of them has truly begun.

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