We did a little Sinterklaas celebration on Monday night, around 9:30 PM. Pretty late for Marci, Cor, and me. But Elliot had a shift at Subway until closing. Olivia was busy with school work (until she took a little break to bike over and join us). Anyway, we made it work. And it was a nice little family connect. Our family has enjoyed this occasion very year, since our move back to Ohio from the Netherlands in 2012. But every year, the echo of Sinterklaas seems to get a little fainter for our family.
This year, Marci made our very own chocolate letters and pepernoten. This allowed us to save on exorbitant shipping costs and stress about delivery dates. But it created some extra work. We balanced that out with going lighter on the gift-giving. Aside from the sweets, we just had one extra gift (a puzzle) for the whole family to share. And we played the bare minimum of Sinterklaasliedjes over our sound system. (We all agree that the traditional music is actually rather obnoxious!).
Sinterklaas is a cherished family tradition. But we’ve also been wondering about its sustainability.
How long can we keep this up with our increasingly-divergent lives? Even if we get the kids to help with making the chocolate letters and the pepernoten, how realistic is it that we’ll be able to stop everything else in our lives and gather for a holiday that’s really only celebrated by school-aged children in the Netherlands?
While we were all together for Sinterklaas (our “Dutch Christmas,” traditionally celebrated on December 5th), we looked at our calendars and plotted out the course for a family celebration of Santa Lucia (our “Swedish Christmas,” traditionally celebrated on December 13th). The traditional date happened to fall during Kent State University’s Final Exams for the Fall Semester. So: not great timing for Elliot or Olivia. Consequently, we decided to pull together a weekend celebration. We were all planning to attend Cor’s performance in a choir concert on Friday night. So, why not just turn that into a sleepover and enjoy Santa Lucia together on Saturday morning? We all love Santa Lucia a little bit more than Sinterklaas, since we’ve been celebrating the Swedish holiday for longer — plus it has better food, better music, and better presents. Even so, we had to kind of shoe-horn it into the schedule.
And it all got me wondering if it might be time to start heading in the direction of some new rhythms. Maybe even a whole new, amalgamated holiday that would allow us to keep in contact with some of our beloved traditions — but also flex and adapt to our family’s changing dynamics.
So I’ve started dreaming (and talking with my family) about a new holiday called Santerklucia Weekend. I’m normally a traditionalist, loath to change, but I really like the possibilities for this. My family is still adjusting to the idea (as well as to the portmanteau I’ve suggested for the name). But here are some of the “selling points” for such a consolidation / shift in holiday traditions:
- Santerklucia Weekend could shift from year to year, as needed. Any of the first three weekends in December would make sense. And this kind of flexibility could be really nice — particularly as our kids gain more and more independence.
- The Friday night of Santerklucia Weekend could be primarily Sinterklaas-focused: the shoes filled with treats when everyone enters the home… a burlap sack “delivered” with a chocolate letter for each person… a couple of Sinterklaasliedjes for old time’s sake… But probably not any additional presents or pepernoten, intentionally making some cuts to pare down Sinterklaas to more manageable levels. We would also probably add in the preparation of Lucia Buns, since this always has to be done the day before Santa Lucia.
- On Friday night, we could also add in a Christmas movie… or a drive to look at Christmas lights… or the Roosevelt High School Madrigal Dinner… and, of course, a sleepover.
- The Saturday morning of Santerklucia Weekend could be primarily focused on Santa Lucia celebrations: the hot cocoa and Lucia Buns… the girl in the white dress, red sash, and crown of light… the stocking stuffer presents… and just some relaxed hang-out time (more or less keeping our Santa Lucia traditions fully intact, except for the date of their observance).
- Throughout the day on Saturday, we could also add in a “Spot’s Lunch” (homemade Philly Cheesesteaks)… a Frosty Frolic 5K… and/or any of the other supplemental ideas noted above.
- Such a unique holiday celebration could free up a lot of bandwidth for eventual in-laws and extended family gatherings — while also creating a more intimate household holiday celebration. Kind of like what we got to experience as a household of five during our Amsterdam years.
Will such a blended tradition catch on within the family? I don’t know. But I’m intrigued with the concept. Call it Santerklucia. Call it “Euro-Christmas.” Or call it whatever else you might like. I call it “fun” and “sustainable.” And I’m there for that.