From Sint Maarten to Novenas

December 13, 2013 By Elvira Mendoza Comments

One Amsterdam mama shares how her family incorporates both Dutch and Colombian traditions during the holiday season - it sounds amazing and hectic! Read on to find out how she does it.

One of the wonders of having a multicultural marriage is that you can combine almost everything: language, customs, traditions and then when you least expect it, you have a little world of your own.

My Dutch husband and I moved to South Africa after one year of being together in Colombia. I loved it. South Africa was a neutral land for us. We were both learning about a new culture, and when we closed the door to our house we had our world together to escape to. However, when we moved to Netherlands I was alone in adapting to the traditions, while at the same time teaching my little one the traditions from my homeland, Colombia.

Here we are 2.5 years later living in Netherlands, combining all traditions.

Another interesting fact is that in The Netherlands some traditions depend on whether you live in the north or south (where my husband is from). In this country there is SinterKlaas and Queens Day - and the rest is divided by where you live! In Tilburg you celebrate Carnaval, in the north you don´t, but you have Sint Maarten and maybe even Santa Claus. In the south you go to mass to celebrate the birth of Jesus and in the north too, but this aspect is not as big as it is in the South. I am teaching my son and my husband all about Sint Maarten because we live in Amsterdam; I've joined the Carnaval Association where my husband has been a member all his life; we've put the carrots out for Sinter Klaas and the Novena from Colombia. And then there's even Santa Claus as the brother of Sinter Klaas in this little repertoire! 

This year, for the second year since my son was born, we celebrated all these traditions and the Novena. Novena is celebrated in Colombia during the nine days before Christmas. Families and friends gather in front of the manger and read a small reflection and sing Christmas carols in Spanish. Afterwards we eat and dance. A whole celebration prior to Christmas to honour family and friends and remind us of what is important at Christmas. We don´t open gifts on the 25th but on the evening of the 24th instead, just after dinner and the last Novena. Gifts are opened at midnight, and then we play with the toys and dance until very early in the morning.

Our world together continues to grow as our family does and our cultural traditions entwine. My little one is a combination of these two rich worlds. I wonder what traditions he will create.


About the author: Elvira Mendoza is a Colombian full-time working mom of a four year old, and married to a Dutch citizen. She has lived in Netherlands for four years, and has volunteered with Amsterdam Mamas for three years. She has also a company called Mariposa Vlinder, and loves writing and reading. She is also part of the Amsterdam Mamas Book and Film Club.


photo credit: jovike via photopin cc

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