Saint Nicholas 1

18 11 2008

Saintly fun hasn’t finished yet! On Saturday, followed closely on a special television broadcast by all children in Belgium and the Netherlands, Saint Nicholas, arrived from Spain by steamboat.

sinterklaas-stoomboot

You see, Saint Nicholas, or ”Sinterklaas”, lives forever, and many centuries ago he was the bishop of Smyrna. He used to give dowries to poor girls so they could get good husbands. Saint Nicholas now lives in Spain during most of the year, but in November Saint Nicholas, and his black Piets, and his white horse, all travel by steamboat to the Netherlands and Belgium.

sinterklaas-op-het-dak

This old nineteenth century lithograph showing Sinterklaas and black Piet on the roof, Saint Nicholas is throwing down candy to the expectant children in the house.

From now until the fifth of December, Saint Nicholas will ride the roofs of all houses at night, together with black Piet, and distribute small gifts to children.
So if you are still small, you can take your shoe, put it in front of the fireplace, (if you’re really nice you add a carrot for the grey horse) and sing special ”Sinterklaas-songs” and while you are sleeping, Black Piet climbs down the chimney, leaves a small present in your shoe, and take up the carrot to the grey horse.

sinterklaas-schouw

sinterklaas-enpietopdak

A very rare modern photograph of Sinterklaas and black Piet climbing the roof of an old farm.

In the daytime, Saint Nicholas travels around a lot visiting different cities, and schools, businesses and hospitals. This causes conflicts. Newspapers have been known to announce three different visits of Sinterklaas, on different locations, at the same time! How is that possible?
Well, actually, there are ”help-Saints” to make it possible for Saint Nicholas to be everywhere at once. And it doesn’t matter where or when you get to meet Sain Nicholas, you can always be sure you are meeting the one and only real Saint Nicholas!

sinterklaas-1

Visiting amsterdam

On these occasions The black Piets hand out special candy and small cookies, made with spicy herbs, and candy in lettershapes, and chocolate in animal shapes. This is called ”strooigoed” and everybody can get a handfull.

sinterklaas-strooigoed


A group of ”Help-Saints”

sinterklaas-klonen-2





The handshake

21 08 2008

A muslim man has been denied a job by the Rotterdam council because he refused to shake hands with women.

The government-job he was refused for is one where he would be in contact with clients, and would hold a position where he holds a position of trust. He arrived at his interview in traditional dress (I suppose a thobe-like garment) and immediately refused to shake the hand of a female interviewer.

In the first instance the ”commission for equal treatment” put the muslim gentleman in the right, because ”Equal treatment” means you can’t refuse a person a job on religious grounds.
The court has now ruled that the council of Rotterdam is in the right to refuse the man this job because he himself doesn’t treat people equally: He does shake hands with men, but doesn’t shake hands with women.

Good! I am glad!

About time too! Wake up people! Refusing to shake hands with women is seen as discriminatory against women in the Netherlands! Shaking hands in Europe isn’t a quick sexy fumble! A handshake is deeply ingrained in our culture (yes, we have culture too!) as a clear sign of trust and honesty!!! And to refuse one segment of society your hand is mind-boggingly total discrimination!!!!!

More than that; refusing to shake hands here in Europe is seen as a clear and distinct insult! And is used as such.

If you can’t get yourself to shake hands with members of the other sex, I don’t care. That is your prerogative. But that means there will be consequences for your preferences, your personal choices. Especially as you choose to exert these preferences in direct opposion to the customs of polite behaviour in the country you choose to live in! Amongst routinely insulting people, you will not be able to get some of the jobs you’d like.

Stop whining, get your priorities straight, and deal with it!!!

What also irritates me here is that again one nutter has publicly made clear that all muslims are bigots who consider all women unclean, and demand special preferential treatment above anybody else. Or do all my muslim-visitors agree on the non-handshaking with Fitnah women? And that this should be respected in other cultures? Even when in a representative, trust-inspiring council capacity?

I am interested what you, my friends have to say about it, and especially any bigotted blurkers are very welcome to spew some intolerant comments here.

Update: solution

Disclaimer: All blame and eventual death-fatwas inspired by this Danish Cartoon should be aimed at Saudi In US.




Country Shopping

29 07 2008

I want to introduce you to the custom of way side shopping in the Netherlands.

While the weather is amenable, many people like to sell their stuff in a low-maintenance manner by putting up a stall, and let things develop on their own. This can range from a miniature garage-sale, to garden produce, eggs, honey, to a professional nursery selling examples of their plants or cut flowers.
It works like this: You put up a table with a parasol, or even a real stall, and put your merchandise out, price everything, and people passing by choose what they like, and put the money into a tin-box, jar, flowerpot, whatever.
Apparently this works very well, because it’s getting more and more popular 🙂
Just make it clear: There are no people looking after the stalls! You are expected to be honest and pay for what you take and leave the money in the box, jar, flowerpot. And of course they’re counting on nobody taking money out of it, unless it is change.

Photos taken from horse-back: hence the high view point.
It’s raining a bit: Two baskets of vegetables, and a tin for the money.

A more serious arrangement and a covered stall showing a miscellaneous array of stuff.

A very lovely display of garden plants, and they even offer plastic bags to take your choice home! Little tin on the right to take your money.

Weird vegetables. they claim they are edible. I have no idea…
Little tin in front of the notice for money.

The absolute minimum: four courgettes, paper mentioning the price, and a jam-jar for the money.





Stupidity and honesty

26 07 2008

I have been buying some materials at the market to make new clothes. At my favorite market stall, I brought four lovely pieces of stuff, and as I could use my debit-card with pin, I did just that. Now, really, I always check the amount before I push ”yes”.
Except this time.
And I was wondering why I had so little money on my account…
So I checked my balance, and discovered that instead of €29,50, I had payed €295,00!!!!!!!!!!

And that was two weeks ago!!!!!

So I printed my bank statement as proof, prepared myself to tell a good story, and to be assertive, and went to the stall in question, and guess what?
They had been on the look-out for me all this time! They all ready started waving as I approached, and had the surplus money I payed ready for me to take back!
They had found out just after I left two weeks ago there had been a slight discrepancy in numbers 😀

Hence the title: I was stupid; they were honest.





I will love you forever

25 06 2008

Today the first ”oak wedding anniversary” ever in the Netherlands has been celebrated.

The happy couple met in Paris in 1928, they married the same year, and today have been married for 80 years. They are both 102 years old.
They lived on their own until they became 100 years old, and then they moved to a care home. At night the staff move their beds together so they can hold hands. When one of them leaves the room the other half becomes upset.
”They never stopped loving each other”, their 77 year old daughter said.





Hijab in Holland part 1

23 05 2008

Hello! Everybody who tuned in on the title: Bad Luck! I just put the word hijab into the title to ”up” my disappointing blogstats a bit.

This post is really about the weird regional traditional Dutch dresses! Which also include covering the head.
Oh, well, let’s throw some fuel on the fire: In my mind there is a clear correlation, looking back over the past 3000 years, between women being regarded as second rate human beings, and dress-restrictions. Especially covering. Or, as is the fashion in the west now; uncovering.

I don’t care how much some individuals are convinced they cover themselves with restricting fabric because they are liberated, and doing it of their own free will. I’m sure they do truly believe so, and I do respect that. But I’m also convinced the concept of covering is not invented by women, but by men who are always looking for ways to control women. By any means possible.
And a favorite means is, to declare: ”It’s for your own good” coupled with: ”God wants you to” . That one makes all resistance virtually futile.

Historically, and to date, covering of women can be seen in societies where women have had their powers and economical independence taken away, and were regarded as part of men’s possessions. In Greece women were literally mentioned on lists of household goods. Of course they had to cover. Actually, they were only allowed out of the house one day a year. In Rome every married woman was considered a priestess of Vesta and had to be veiled. Through the Roman Christian faith, with has been so successful in taking away the rights of women all over the world, the concept of covering the head for women was also induced into Europe.

Anyway, Dutch traditional dress. This one is especially for my sister Suroor who like traditions so much. The Netherlands are but a little speck on the map. But, because all Dutch always think they know better than the next person, there is an enormous diversity in regional dresses, and, for your education and amusement, I’m going to show you a few of them. The poorer a region; the more ancient in style the dresses. In very poor regions the dresses were almost medieval! up to about sixty years ago, some fishing villages still kept to the medieval mourning custom where women covered themselves with their skirt turned up over their heads.
That wasn’t as indecent as it sounds, they could wear as many as 11 other skirts underneath!

So about the weird regional dresses. One thing I have to point out first is the use of what is called the ”ear-iron” This was originally a metal wire that went around the head, with a curl at the end, and used to attach the head cover. But over the centuries it evolved in different forms all over the Netherlands.

The ear-iron’s function is to keep the halal christian head-covers in place, and have been used for hundreds of years. Here you see a very old painting of a lady with head-cloth. To proof she is Dutch she’s carrying a couple of Dutch cheeses.

The richer the province, the larger the ear-irons. The northern provinces were very rich and the ear-irons evolved into a kind of helmet. While in poorer regions it remained quite modest in size.

A second detail of dress I’d like to mention is lace. On some photo’s you’ll see an awful lot of lace, and I want to make clear that making lace by hand is an extremely difficult and time consuming business. A lace parure could cost more than your jewellery together!
Here you see a lady making a simple bit of lace ribbon, check out the bobbins. Imagine the enourmous numbers of bobbins were needed for a piece of really intricate lace!

I’ll start off with my province, Groningen, and next to it, Friesland. The province of the Frisian horses. The ”Black Pearls of the North”. These horses look their best in front of an eighteenth-century ”Sjees” driven by a handsome couple in traditional dress.

The ear-iron could also support a kind of sunscreen to protect your complexion from the sun (A lady was néver tanned!)

So, the irons used in the North are amongst the largest in the Netherlands. And they were essential! If you were poor you wore a silver one, and if you were pathetically poor a brass one. But it was unseemly to go about without one. There were subscriptions to raise money to get orphan girls their ear-irons so they could get jobs, and there were skating competitions for girls to win a gold ear-iron. If fashions had not changed I am sure I’d have tried much harder on becoming a good skater.


There is one snag with wearing these ear-irons: on top is a lace cap, underneath is a black cap, under the black cap is a white cap, and to be able to fit all of that on your head you have to
CUT OFF YOUR HAIR!!!!!!
Which brings us to this delightful painting of a family-crisis: Here we see the stern, Groninger, Mater Familias, (and you can’t see it very well, but believe me, she’s holding an enormous pair of scissors!) The young daughter is distraught and holding on to her golden locks, the threatening ear-iron and lace cap are ready in the corner. The elder sister is trying to console her weeping sister and calming down the determined mother.

And this is how it is still worn today (on special occasions)

It’s getting too long, digest this, dear readers, and tune in for the second part!





Bicycle-swimming

30 04 2008

For American Bedu’s amusement I’m now going to explain the concept of: ”bicycle-swimming”
This sport is mainly constricted to the Netherlands.
Not because we do a lot of cycling, but because, due to our sublime weather conditions. we are mostly excellent swimmers.
Not because we all learn to swim before we go to school, but because those who can’t will have drowned before reaching that age.
Not because we don’t care about children, but because it is natural selection.

So, to recap: in The Netherlands a lot of people get around on a bicycle. And because of our glorious climate we have to combine it with our skills in swimming.
I’ll illustrate it; to the left: Aafke going to the Tuesday market. To the right: Aafke returned from the Tuesday market.

What has happened in between?
Well This:

This is what happens when you go shopping in the Netherlands, and for this you need the combined skills of cycling, and swimming!
to show you the awful reality: A look out of my window, at noon!!!!!





Fitna

24 04 2008

I had só wanted to ignore this. I didn’t want to see the 10 minutes trash put together by a demented student in a spare moment and erroneously advertised and spoken of as a ”movie”, but I have seen it. And I’m tired of seeing discussions about it in Blogsphere, and I’m not willing to be commenting anything about it any more.

Anyway, to everybody who has ignored it on their blogs: Right on dudes! You rock!

There are 17.000.000 Dutch, amongst which there is 1 bozo called Wilders. I’m insulted every time he is referred to as ”Dutch” or his ”movie” is referred to as ”Dutch”. One aberration does not a Dutchman make. The biggest success this movie has had is that it showed everybody that Wilders is pretty disturbed, stupid and knows nothing at all about Islam, nor about the bible. Because you can find quite a lot of similar statements in the bible too.

And I’m also pissed about how all muslims go on about how extremist terrorist are wrong and their shouting ”Allahu akhbar” while blowing themselves and a lot of innocent men, women and children up, has nothing to do with real Islam. Really. If that is so, do something about it! Speak up for yourselves and the truth and stop ignoring the creeps who are informing us in the west that their perverted version of Islam is really Islam. And hand bozo’s like Wilders the footage to make videos like fitna.

What Wilders is afraid for is the attenuation of Dutch culture because of the many immigrants we have. While I agree The Netherlands should have restrictions on immigration, I think having a multi-cultural environment is interesting and invigorating. Besides, large numbers have always migrated for hundreds of years towards the Netherlands because on the whole the Dutch are very nice and friendly and not at all given to force their culture/religious beliefs on other people. Actually in this respect other countries may have a lot to learn from us, the Dutch!

Typical Dutch girls in traditional dress

Anyway, if culture is that important I wish the Dutch would care more about it and for example be more interested in art and culture, and be prepared to pay artists an honest price for the work they do.

Never mind, I’m now going to show you:

  1. A piece of unadulterated Dutch ”Culture”, The ”Klompendans” (dance of the wooden clogs)
  2. A bit of our traditional Clog-dance adulterated by the Nefarious Influence of Alien Foreigners

I’d be very interested in your opinion which video is better to watch. The first one is very short, to spare you more pain than is absolutely necessary. Not that I want to have you think I’m trying to influence you in any way…





The Tree of Life

23 03 2008

Today is Easter, the resurrection of Christ. Also: Ostara, a pagan festival of awakening nature and fertility. I find it very cheerful. Especially as there is a lot of chocolate going around in the shape of chocolate eggs. Eggs are also painted and decorated as the Iranians do for Nowrooz.

It’s another festival where some people put trees up: in the case of Easter usually twisted branches in a vase, that will start sprouting leaves in a few days, and the branches are decorated with eggs and hares and birds.

This symbolises the Tree of Life. A universal symbol. The middle eastern image of The Tree of Life, as a simplified tree with two figures, or animals at either side is well-known.

tree-of-life-ur.jpg 

tree-of-life_mesapotamia.jpg

What I hope interests you, my friends is; that this image is very popular in the north of the Netherlands!

Dutch doors have a window above the door, to let in the light. These doorlights are very often decorated with a stylised Tree of Life. The idea is, that every time you come in through the door, you get blessed. Many of these have been removed, and they are still disappearing, which I think is a pity, so I photographed a few for you. These are all from the city of Groningen. Most are made from cast iron.

This is a very elaborate one from the 17th century

tree-of-life-17.jpg

The 18th century had more stylised ones.

tree-of-life-18.jpg

The early nineteenth century’s ones are similar. This one is merged with a ”horn of plenty” grapes and flowers are dripping down.

tree-of-life-19-white-house.jpg

tree-of-life-19-early.jpg

Later on the Tree of Life, became more simplified,

tree-of-life-19.jpg

And this is the most common form to be seen.

tree-of-life-19-dubbel.jpg

And, of course, I have one myself. It is very close to the middle eastern examples like this shell-carving.

tree-of-life-ur-two-goats2.jpg

Only mine is in the kitchen, because I live in a thirties house, with no door-light. There are no trees after 1900. Don’t know why.

tree-of-life-aafke.jpg





The Dutch eating Herring

18 01 2008

The most disgusting sight in Gastronomic Anthropology is: ”The Dutch eating Herring” This is also called: ”Haring Happen”. It means: eating a herring. A fresh uncooked herring, which may, or may not be, sprinkled with freshly chopped onions. It tastes absolutely disgusting by the way. You hold it up, by the tail, and bend back your head. You then let the raw fish slide down your throat. In some way or other it is then consumed. I must admit, at this stage I usually can’t stand it anymore, and look the other way. Even though I do like to take visiting friends from far away to see the sight. Anyway, somehow they eat it, and the remains are then pulled out and discarded. Highly recommended, from an educational point of view, for visiting tourists.

haringhappen.jpg But not immediately after breakfast.