Christmas

Heretic Christmas

by Rob on

Although “tradition” seems to proclaim that you should not decorate your house for Christmas while “Sinterklaas” (which is celebrated in The Netherlands among other countries) is still in the country, we will start with the Christmas decoration this weekend.

I know that I have talked before about Christmas and its origin, but it is something that keeps my interest and every year I learn something new.

Kerst marktplaats/Christmas market

The origin of Christmas

That Christmas is not an Christian celebration by origin is generally accepted I think. The origin of Christmas goes way more back then Christianity.

Celebration the birth of Jesus on 25 December is based on pagan traditions or better said, by celebrating it on that day the Christian Church tried to get rid of these pagan traditions. According the bible Jesus was born in fall somewhere between 4 and 7 before AD…. that is, if Jesus has ever existed at all (but that is another discussion).

It all started with the midwinter celebrations. Ancient Germanic tribes celebrated on December 21 that the days became longer. Yule or winter solstice was celebrated throughout Northern Europe. Often with all sorts of cults and rituals. Of some celebrations is known that the oak tree was central.

In the Scandinavian languages Christmas is still called Jul.

Although the dating as December 25 predates pagan influence, the later development of Christmas as a festival includes elements of the Roman feast of the Saturnalia and the birthday of Mithra.

Kerstversiering

Customs of Christmas

Christmas, and all the customs around it, is one big collection of influences of all different cultures.

The Christmas tree itself find it origin in pagan believes. Way before Christianity in Europe people already decorated there homes around Saturnalia (in December). They decorated living trees with small pieces of metal to honour their god Bacchus.
Decorating a home with evergreen boughs was strictly forbidden by the Christian Church in the 3rd century. And the decorated Christmas tree, as we know it now, is only since mid 19th century around.
There have been quite some disputes around the Christmas tree. In America William Bardford, a Calvinist, tried to “stamp out these pagan traditions of Christmas”.

The Christian custom of “kissing under mistletoe” is related to what used to be a sexual agreement of the Druidic sacrificial cult. Also nice to know is that the berries of the mistletoe are poisonous and were used during Druid rituals to poison their human sacrificial victim.

In pre-Christian Rome, the emperors compelled their most despised citizens to bring offerings and gifts during the Saturnalia (in December) and Kalends (in January). Later, this ritual expanded to include gift-giving among the general populace. The Catholic Church gave this custom a Christian flavor by re-rooting it in the supposed gift-giving of Saint Nicholas

Christmas

And then Santa Claus

Nicholas was born in Parara, Turkey in 270 and later became Bishop of Myra. He passed way on 6 December 345. It was not before the 19th century that he was named to be a saint.
He was one of the bishops who worked on the new testament in 325 (Council of Nicaea) and there they described the Jews as “the children of the devil” who sentenced Jesus to death.
The Nicholas cult spread North through Italy and people started to give each presents on 6 December, the day that Nicholas passed away (We here in The Netherlands, and other countries, we still celebrate “Sinterklaas” on that date).
In Northern Europe the celebrations around Nicolas were adopted by German and Geltic pagans. As they merged Nicolas into their own culture Nicolas lost his Mediterranean appearance. He got a beard, was dressed in cold protecting clothes and mounted a horse that could fly.
To please the pagan people in Northern Europe, the Catholic Church Nicholas cult adopted Christmas and taught that they should give gifts on December 25th instead of December 6th.
Early 1800’s Washington Irving wrote a satiric novel about the Dutch culture called “Knickerbocker History”. In that novel a white bearded man riding a flying horse called “Santa Claus” (“Sinter Klaas”) was more then once mentioned.
Some years later Clement Moore wrote. after reading “Knickerbocker History”, a poem about Santa Claus. And with this poem the 8 reindeers and the delivering of the presents through the chimney were introduced.
From 1862 through 1886 Thomas Nast made many cartoon images of Santa Claus for Harper’s Weekly. He almost completed the image of the modern Santa Claus. Nast placed the home of Santa Claus on the North Pole, give him his elven helpers and the book with good and bad deeds of all children of the world.
In 1932 Coca Cola hired Haddon Sundblom to make an advertisement with Santa. Here Santa got his cheerful and chubby face. Coca Cola insisted on a bright and red suit.
And there is was… Santa Claus, a mixture of a Christian crusader, a pagan god and an commercial idol.

Happy holidays everyone

Rob

 


Credit photo’s: Rob)


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And then it was Christmas again…

by Rob on

And suddenly it is Christmas again… I like the atmosphere of Christmas, but apart from that it has no real special meaning to me. Sure, I am happy that they days are getting longer again, but not more than that. It is more an enjoyable day to spend with someone close to you.

Marion is reading on the couch while enjoying a good glass of wine. And I work on my blog. The sound of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons on a nice volume finds its way through the apartment. And it is good this way.

Today I prepared for Marion and me quail (“kwartel”). It is the first time that I prepared quail, so I better do it the first time for Marion and me alone. We always have to laugh when something really goes wrong (and there is always something in the freezer when it turns out not wise to eat :P). But when you have visitors you want everything to go well.

Miranda, my chef cook friend, always tells me that good preparations are the half work. Especially when you make something for the first time… and for once I listened to her (just kidding, I always listen to her good advices)…

As first I fried some small pieces of bacon in hot pan without butter or oil (bacon has enough oil itself). Added some fine-cut chicken filet, grounded nuts, some raisins, thyme, salt and pepper.This all I friend for about 5 minutes.
The friend mixture I used to fill the two quails. Another good advice here from Miranda to make sure I had special oven wire for the quail. Normal wire will burn in the oven and it should not contain any plastics that can melt.
Finally I wrapped the two quails in bacon.

The inside of an oven scale I buttered with real butter. The two quails went into the scale. I filled the scale with the left over of that what I used to fill the quails. On top of that fine-cut carrots and unions.

The scale was placed for 45 minutes in the oven on a temperature 220 degrees. Meanwhile I prepared some small potatoes (with peel) and as vegetables a mixture of carrots and snow peas.

And the two dishes were ready…

And even when I say myself so, I tasted very good!!!

Tomorrow Marion’s parents will come to Heemskerk. They are always good company. And later in the evening Marion and I will leave for Schiermonninkoog to spend some nice quiet days in a house we rented there (in the very quiet part of the isle). I am really looking forward to that… no mobile phone, no internet… just relaxing and enjoying!


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And as the weekend passes by…

by Rob on

Finally a normal enjoyable weekend without unexpected unwelcome things happening. Not feeling ill (just my throat still hurts a little).
Slowly everything starts to get back to normal. There is new LED projector clock. My BluRay player is back and is working as normal again. Only thing to be done is repairing of the kitchen cupboard. Maybe next weekend…

Marion is asleep on the couch. She was tired, which was not really strange because it was close to 3:00AM this morning before we went to bed. So after a nice evening together she started to fall in sleep all the time. It was kinda sweet to watch, so after a little I made her lay down on the couch and with in minutes she was asleep. Of course the nice temperature in my apartment, the soft music and three glasses of a good cognac helped to that. And that gives me some time to write something on my blog again.

The Christmas Tree is up already. There is some other Christmas decoration in my apartment. First Christmas cards arrived. It always bring a nice atmosphere and enjoyable mood. And I really like it how it feels now in my place.

Just sat with a glass of bock beer listening to the music and watched Marion sleeping on the couch. Such a sweet sight to see.
Maybe it is a nice idea to make a small walk when she wakes up again… Some fresh air might be good. But for now she is still asleep and I will sit here. Enjoy my bock beer, listening to the music and watching her sleeping….
Who said life was bad?

This is one of those weekends that may take a long time to pass...

(Credit photo: Rob)|


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Today I saw a discussion about Christmas on Facebook. It was about “Keep Christ in Christmas”.

Rather some reactions were claiming that Christmas should not be a commercial celebration. With that I agree. Funny fact was that the “Keep Christ in Christmas”-statement was coming from a webshop where you can buy all kind of things with sayings and texts related to Christianity. Talking about being “none commercial”. But that as aside…

Of course here and there the discussion went nasty. As so often when religion is the subject. This from both sides I have to admit.

Someone said “What would be left if you take ‘Christ’ out of Christmas?”. Well, the first reaction I have is that what is left is “Yule”, the celebration where old European populace celebrated that the days were getting longer again, meaning the easier times of the year would arrive again. In the Scandinavian countries Christmas is still called Jul (which I really like). It was a celebration of happiness where the trees that stayed green during the winter were used for decoration… Ermm, wait a moment? Our Christmas Tree? Yes, our Christmas tree and other Christmas decorations have directly their origin there.

Matter of fact, there are more so-called Pagan celebrations that are “overtaken” by Christianity. Just think of Easter! Sometimes I think that was the only way Christianity could handle these Pagan celebrations. They could not abandon them, so they only way was to replace them by something that was more in line with the teaching of the Christian school.

It makes me laugh at times when I look at Christian religion and see how it is filled up with Pagan signs and traditions. The more I look at Christianity, the more I am happy I decided to step away completely from this.

Me? I just think that everybody should celebrate it in their own way. You think Christmas is a Christian Celebration? Fine with me, but allow others to have Christmas in their own way. Just a nice being together. Time to spend with family and friends. Or even the original meaning of Christmas, the getting longer of the days again…. I go for a none religious being together with those I care about. More then enough for me…. And oh yes, I am also happy that the days are getting longer again :)


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Yesterday Marion and I had a very nice and enjoyable evening. We had planned to go out for dinner, but our moods were in the evening not really after it. So we stayed home and ordered some food online. We both had a mixed grill and I really must say that we really liked it. But is was ordered at a “Brasserie”, so you may expect some quality (for which you pay as well… but it was more then worth it).

Together we watched the movie “Sahara”, a adventure movie with lots of humour in it. I had already seen it before, but for Marion it was the first and she really had to laugh at times. The movie is from 2005 and is about an explorer who is seeking out a lost Civil War battleship known as the “Ship of Death”.
Some wine and beer, some home-made snacks. It was very, very nice.

After the movie Marion and I talked a bit and somehow the conversation turned to the beginning of out relation… how we met and the chain of events that made us grow together.
That Christmas of that year was of course a milestone in this all. I had promised my mother to spend Christmas with her, but she was just before Christmas all of a sudden taken into a hospital and I stayed alone at my mothers house. Somehow Marion heard about that and she invited me to spend Christmas Eve with her and some of her best friends. As said, that evening was an important moment…. and thinking back I know now that after that Christmas I just had to fall in love with Marion. It was the logical next step in the chain of events…. and it did happen.

Looking over my shoulder I can see Marion still asleep behind me. What a positive swing she gave to my life….

Talking about “had to fall of love”, that makes me think of a very nice song of the Moody Blues that might be very appropriate….


Had to fall in love
(Moody Blues)

What mattered to me
Was the right to be free
Like I’ll be someday
I’m waiting for my heart to lead the way

The places I’ve seen
And the road in between
Make me wonder why
I’m searching for my dreams up in the sky
I heard the call
And in the mirror
I saw the writing on the wall
And I had to fall
In love with you

The face that I’ve known
Seems so lost and alone
When you’re far away
I’m comin’ for you baby right away

The places I’ve seen
And the roads in between
Make me wonder why
I’m searching for me dreams up in the sky
I heard the call
And in the mirror
I saw the writing on the wall
And I had to fall
In love with you

What mattered to me
Was the right to be free
Like I’ll be someday
I’m waiting for my heart to lead the way


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Merry Christmas to all of you…

by Rob on

I hope that everyone’s Christmas started so wonderful as mine did.

Yesterday during the day I have been working as normal and already some days before that I had to promise that I would not leave for home before 4:00 pm. Somewhere during the day Marion would come to Heemskerk and of course it was very clear she would have a surprise for me. Although I made many jokes to people about not being allowed to go to my own home, I was very curious and this all made me feel very good.

Yes, the last hour at work felt as without end. But finally I could go home. Luckily there were no problems with the trains, so I arrived quickly in Heemskerk. As promised I sent Marion an SMS to tell that I was at the railroad station and that I would be with 10 minutes at my apartment.
When I walk home from the station, I can see the building with my apartment from a large distance. My apartment looked all dark and I started to wonder if Marion didn’t arrive yet. And of course that was directly this worry if nothing bad had happened… a car accident of something like that. But then I realized that when the lamella blinds of my apartment are closed and there is no bright light burning, the apartment really looks dark from the outside.

When I entered the entrance of my apartment there was a big paper on the door to living room telling me welcome home and that there were good clothes waiting on the bed and that I maybe should take a shower first (from the entrance there is also a door to the bathroom, which is connected again to the bedroom). So as asked I took a shower and dressed up for the evening. Luckily there was no tie, because I really dis;ole those.

After I was all dressed up, I knocked on the door from the bedroom to the living room. And I was allowed to enter.
Recently I have been reading the article in a scientific magazine that men are “programmed” to react on women. Well, I know now that this is true…
When I entered the living room and saw Marion, I felt my jaw dropping to the ground and started to drool on the spot. So beautiful!!!! Marion was wearing this long satin-alike dark purple dress. Her arms and shoulder free. Most of her back was free as well. And then the rather deep neckline. Of course high heels and dark stockings. To complete it all, her make-up just I like it so much. Specially her eyes, the way she gave them this extra enchanting effect.
No way around it, I was knocked completely from my feet….

But that was not all. The dinner table was very beautiful decorated. I loved how the was decorated with larger and smaller candles. Also all kind of Christmas related things were used as decoration.
In the middle of the table was the plate with deer. It smelled so wonderful. In a very nice way the rest of the table was decorated with bowls and plates with salads, sauces, baked potatoes, baguettes and much more.
The wine that was served was a Muscadet. Maybe not the most perfect wine to go along with deer, but I know how much Marion loves this wine. And as I like it as well, it was more then okay.
We spend more then 2 hours at the dinner table…. and I have to admit, again it was proven that Christmas Eve can be so much more then special!!

To those that knew the complete story of how Marion really became closer… the story repeated its self!!

Tonight it will be my turn to cook and my dish will be concentrated around pearl hen (“parelhoen”).

A Merry Christmas to all of you…. And that 2011 may be a good year for everyone!

BTW… written on an iPad :).


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Christmas tree…

by Rob on

During the breakfast-up-bed that Marion and I had this morning (and I was the lucky one who could stay in bed all the time) we suddenly realized that this weekend was the last opportunity to put up the Christmas tree in my apartment together. And because it is the first time for me to have a Christmas tree there, we really wanted to do it together.

So yes, maybe a bit early. But as “Sinterklaas” is for us without having children around not much more of being a nice evening together, we went to buy a Christmas tree. Not a real big one, because in my apartment I think a big tree would really be out of place.

As I had no real preference for the colours for the things in the tree, I let it all up to Marion. If I had done it, most likely it had become a mixture of all kind of colours. But as could be expected, Marion went for purple.

I like our Christmas tree…. and yes, I am ready for Christmas!!!


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Snow….

by Rob on

Funny…. Before Christmas we had snow. Now, after Christmas, we have snow… but we didn’t have a white Christmas.

Funny how things can go!!!


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Christmas day

by Rob on

This is one of those moments of rest during a busy day of Christmas day. Marion is taking a nap. The time difference is still hard on her. Sanne is laying lazy on the couch watching a bit tv. And I? I checked my mail and read some forums. And wrote this message about today.

This morning started good. For once I was the one who was the last out of bed. When I went down after a quick shower I was welcomed by the smell of warm bread and fresh coffee. The was warm croissants with ham and cheese… warm kaisers-beards with herb cheese… current… boiled eggs… orange juice…. coffee and tea. A very nice way to start the day.

During the morning we made a long walk. Even though the weather was not the best, it was good and pleasant. And a great opportunity to talk about al that happened since Marion travelled to the US.

The afternoon was for visiting the family, but we stayed nowhere long. We had told this on forehand. Somewhere during the next week we go for longer to the people we want to be with.

When the evening started to come near, it was really time to go home and start to work on our own Christmas dinner. Although we had chosen for very good food, we decided to make not a big thing about. No overly decorated table or things like that. We all just wanted to enjoy and relax

So we worked together on making our dinner. And it was fun and we all laughed a lot. Specially none of us had ever before prepared rabbit.
Sanne was happy that the rabbit was already chopped into pieces. She didn’t like the idea of having there a complete animal that we were going to baked. She called herself foolish because of that, but still she had those emotions about it. But I kinda can understand, so it was all okay.
All three of took a part of those 1.5 kg unions that needed to chopped. The red ones where so sharp that even the trick of floating water from a tap didn’t help any more.

Anyhow we all were satisfied about the result and we really enjoyed the dinner.

As appetiser we a Beef Carpaccio with flakes of cheese and pine-tree pits. To that a dressing based on olive oil, vinegar, salt and herbs

De main dish was rabbit. For the recipe were the next ingredients used: 1 wild rabbit, dried plums, 1.5 kg (1) red and white unions, 2 bottle of old dark beer, 1 bottle of “kriek” beer, 1 spoon of honey, 1 spoon of mustard, pepper, salt, aromat, thyme, laurel leaves, olive oil and flour.
The potato slices where prepared in the oven. Before the went into oven we added olive oil, rosemary, garlic and on top it fine cut old cheese.
The small carrots were normally cooked and over them some parsley.

Desert was the only thing we did buy all prepared. These Praline Icecup with chocolate and hazelnut ice are just too delicious

Tonight we will take it easy. I will wake up Marion in a bit. We have some snacks, some good wine and bockbeer. Most likely we will watch a movie together, chat a bit and enjoy the evening….

A good Christmas day I would say!


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Christmas Eve

by Rob on

For Christmas Eve I was invited at the house of Marion. Normally I would share Christmas Eve with my mother, but with her being in the hospital this was a very welcome invitation.

Christmas as event doesn’t have much meaning for me. Especially not the meaning the Christian religion gave to it. And also not as a reminder for me that we have to be kind and forgiving to each other. When you need such a day for that, then something is really out of balance.
So if I celebrate something, then it that the days will get longer again. Apart from that it is for me nothing more then a time to be with the people I care about.

So as said, this invitation of Marion was very welcome. It seems to be custom for her to celebrate Christmas Eve with friends.
So there were about 10 friends of Marion there. Some people I knew and some new folks. The atmosphere was good and very relaxed. The music was good (note to myself: I must borrow Marions Eagles-collection).
There was a gourmet arranged, but not as it mostly is done (all sit around the table, which gives a very static and forced situation). There was a big table with a rather big gourmet-set. On the same table was all you needed for the gourmet… meat, bird, fish, herbs, unions, mushroom, parika, salads, all kind of sauces and a lot more.
There was also a table with a fish/seafood buffet. The salmon was more then delicious. Same for the baked shrimps. Of course there enough for everyone to drink… beer, wine, non alcoholic drinks…. (did someone say bokbeer? :P).
The nice thing of this setup is that fill your plate with some of the food and then you mix up with others again. So you talk with everyone. Get to know the people you don’t know yet. I liked it.

The food was all prepared by Miranda, a friend of Marion. She showed and proofed that she is awesome in her profession (she is a chef cook in a exclusive restaurant). Not only the food was of an awesome quality, also the way it was displayed was a joy to see.

Later in the evening someone suggested to play a game “Truth or Dare”. Now I know that this game can go in a very “wrong” direction, but that didn’t happen luckily. Al stayed decent (well, more or less… at least nothing shocking happened), but I did learn some things about some people that I didn’t know :).

It was very nice evening. Thank you, Marion.


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