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Halloween: From spooky origins to family fun

by Natalia Moreno

The Origins of Halloween

Bonfire. PC: Pixabay

Although Halloween celebrations are very popular in The United States, its origin comes far from the American continent. History dates Halloween celebrations as a Celtic festival, Samhain, commemorated with bonfires and animal costumes on the day before their new year, which used to be the 1st of November.

This celebration marked the end of the summer and the start of the cold and dark winter, a period associated with death and agricultural difficulties. The Celts believed that on October 31st, the spirits came back to Earth and the lost souls could cause trouble; therefore the bonfires, rituals and costumes helped repel the intentions of bad ghosts.

Later on, the Christians celebrated “All Saints Day/All-Hallows Day” on the 1st of November, which was the reason why the Celtic commemoration on the 31st of October became known as “All-Hallows Eve,” and later, “Halloween”.

Halloween in the United States

Jack-o-lanterns. PC: Pixabay

The Irish and English people brought the Halloween traditions with them during the mass migrations to the United States in the 19th Century, where it became a popular holiday.

It lost its religious and ghostly nature and became a celebration to bring together the community through games, food and costumes. The famous game “trick or treat” then became a fun way of sharing food. Despite the efforts of some community leaders to remove the scary tone of Halloween, this holiday still holds mystery and superstition, especially in the United States.

Halloween in Colombia

Kids singing and asking for candy at the end of the day. Source: http://www.ruedalaprensa.com

In Colombia, many efforts have been made in the last 15 years to diminish the creepy feeling of Halloween. In fact, it is now called, “Kid’s Day.” Schools and community centres promote the celebration of this day by hosting carnivals and kid-oriented shows, such as puppet theatre and magic shows. It is very common in Colombia to see kids wearing a costume to school on the 31st of October.

Funny enough, we don’t have seasons like those in the United States or UK, so pumpkins and spiders are not common at all at this time of the year. And yet, we still use those items for decoration. At the end of the day, kids go from house to house singing something that would translate as, “trick or treat Halloween, I want candy only for me, your nose will grow if you don’t give candy to me.” It might sound aggressive, but it is not taken in a bad way at all. It might refer to the Pinocchio story, were his nose grew longer because of lying. So telling a kid you don’t have candy to share might be considered a lie. My own interpretation!

Halloween in the Netherlands

Not a Dutch tradition?

Trick or treating. PC: Pixabay

In the 9 years I’ve been living in the Netherlands, no one has come to my door asking for candy on the 31st Of October. However, when my son was born, I decided I was not going to let this day pass unnoticed. At the time, I was living in Wageningen, a very international town in the east of The Netherlands. That year, I sent my son to daycare dressed as a polar bear and although moms and leaders thought it was cute, they also thought it was a bit weird.

I had also asked around among other expats and found out there was a newly built neighbourhood where many expats lived, and many had decorated their houses for Halloween. We decided to go in the evening with our kids and sing our Spanish Halloween songs, going from door to door to ask for candy. To our delight, we were very well received, even by the Dutch families! Perhaps this might be the only neighbourhood in Wageningen where kids can get candy on the 31st of October.

… how you can celebrate Halloween, Dutch style!

However, more than asking for candy, I wanted my son to enjoy Halloween in the way kids do in Colombia, and I’m sure I’m not the only one! Therefore I have been doing my research and I am very happy to share this info with you:

Halloween shopping night

(Prinses Beatrixlaan, 2284 BK Rijswijk)
Thursday 25th October, from 18:00 – 21:00: dance performances for kids and face painting in de Bogaard Shopping Centre.

Halloween at the Delft Botanical Gardens

(Poortlandplein 6, 2628 BM Delft)
Friday 26th October, from 17:00 – 21:00: Ghost greenhouse, face painting, colouring, pumpkin carving, scary photo booth (DIY), marshmallows roasting at the bonfire, ghostly treasure hunt. You must pay for the entrance and for €2, kids get a stampcard for the various activities.

Halloween at the Stadsboerderij BuytenDelft

(Korftlaan 3a, 2616 LJ Delft)
Saturday 27th October, from 13:00 – 20:00: for kids between 3 and 6 years there are several activities throughout the day, such as pumpkin carving, decorating Halloween cupcakes, making popcorn in the fire pit, face painting, storytelling and a ghost tour through the water playground. See here for more  information about the timetable of activities and costs.

Halloween in the Wippolder

(Wippolder, 2628 GC Delft)
Saturday 27th October, from 18:00 – 20:00: this has been a big and succesful Trick or Treat walk to the houses along a planned map route. Kids and parents wearing a costume are welcome to join this fun walk. The route to follow can be found on their Facebook page.

Delft MaMa Halloween Party

(Speeltuin Geerweg, Kleine Boogerd 16, 2611 WC Delft)
Sunday 28th October, from 14:00: Hosted by Delft MaMa, there are costume contests for both the kids and the adults. There’s a Pot Luck (bring a dish!) for food, but drinks will be available at the venue. The fee is €12,50 per family,  Pay online via Tikkie. Follow the Facebook event here.

Halloween in de Trees!

(Laan van NOI 104, 2593 BX Den Haag)
Wednesday 31st October, from 13:00 – 17:00: Face painting, treasure hunt, trick or treat, surprise activities at the Zorg voor Party Feestwinkel.

Halloween in de Reinkenstraat

(Reinkenstraat, 2517 CS Den Haag)
Wednesday 31st October, from 16:00 – 18:00: This is a very cosy shopping street in the Hague.  Children are invited to go dressed with costumes to sing Trick or Treat. There will also be several children’s activities in the street, such as a spooky ghost tunnel, a candy festival and face painting.

Halloween at Duivenvoorde Castle

(Laan van Duivenvoorde 4, 2252 AK Voorschoten)
Wednesday 31st October, from 16:00 – 17:30 for kids from 4 to 8 years old; from 17:30 to 19:00 for kids from 8 to 12 years old. Activities for both age groups include walking through the ancient castle rooms, a super-scary ghost tour, short storytelling in the attic, face painting, Halloween crafts and roasting marshmallows over the campfire.

Have a spooktacular time!

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Memories and Blackberries

Blackberries and Memories

Yesterday, I took my daughters blackberry picking. To someone else this may sound like just another day out, but for me it was special. It was special because it enabled me to re-live one of my favourite childhood memories and to share it with my own children.

When I think of it now, it seems a little strange, a teenage girl voluntarily taking her little brother out to pick blackberries. Remember though that this was in the time before iPads, and we had two months of summer holidays to fill!

This particular memory takes place towards the end of the summer break when we had already spent days at the beach, in the park, hung out with friends, set out crab traps, wandered around the house doing nothing in particular and were feeling rested, relaxed, and superbly content. Suddenly it was the end of August, and what had started as an endless vacation was *gasp* almost over. The race was on to make the most of those last sun filled days. I grabbed a few buckets and shouted to my little brother, “come on! We are going blackberry picking.”

Vancouver Island, where we lived, is a magical island of spectacular natural beauty (but that’s another story). It is also covered with wild blackberry bushes that ripen in late summer. Out we walked into the hot sun carrying our buckets like little soldiers on a mission to the nearest patch. After sizing up the bushes to find the juiciest specimens we dropped our buckets and started picking. We worked in companionable silence broken only by the occasional “ouch!” as one of us scratched ourselves or ‘mmmm’ when we were unable to resist a taste. Occasionally, disaster would strike in the form of accidentally kicking over a nearly full bucket or, particularly painful, falling into the bushes. Much to the hilarity of the other sibling.

If I let my mind travel back there now I can still smell the warm, ripe berry smell, part fermented fruit and part earthy leaves that would soon be turning brown. The hot sun burning the back of my neck, the scratches on my hands and the relaxing monotony of picking. Concentrated as we were on our efforts to find the biggest, juiciest berries, we lost all track of time.

Buckets finally full we trudged home with the fruits of our labour. Tired and hot we competed to see who had the most scratches or whose fingers were the purplest, stained from the dark juice.

Back in the kitchen, I made the pastry and, together with my little brother, we rolled it out to fit the pie tins. Then we cooked the berries, adding lots and lots of sugar. By the time we’d assembled the pies and baked them in the oven, the kitchen was a disaster of flour and squashed berries. At about this time, my Mum arrived home from work to find two children who had made a disaster of her kitchen proudly displaying fresh blackberry pies.

The childhood experiences that my daughters have in Holland are very different from my own back in rural Canada. Sometimes this is part of the fun. We get to experience things for the first time together. But other times it can make it hard to relate to each other. Memories that friends back home hold on to because they are triggered by their familiar surroundings have faded into the recesses of my memory. It’s amazing how a simple activity like this can bring those memories rushing back, filling my heart with a warm glow.

Vancouver Island is too far and too expensive to travel back to regularly. However, I am doing my best to bring a little bit of my life in Canada here to share with my family. When I do and when it works, the distance between here and home closes just a little and the effort is so very worth it.

I would love to hear about traditions from home that you are sharing here with your children?

And of course about any good spots for blackberry picking!

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36 questions to love for couples

I recently read about the 36 questions to fall in love with anybody. This is meant for people that are dating and possibly looking to fall in love, but I really wanted to know what it was about and if it had any impact to a couple that has been together already for years.

When a chance presented itself, my husband and I went for a date night, but before we left the house, I downloaded an app called 36 to love. There are lots of apps with this name, but I just chose the first one on the list.

Around 10 in the evening we sat down on high bar stools and I told him I’d like to give this experiment a try. Luckily he was on board immediately, curious about the process.  We have been together for over 10 years by now (married for nearly seven years), we have children and we’re all in all a somewhat regular couple with life’s ups and downs.

The point of the game is to answer the question on the screen. Both participants take turns and once both are happy with each other’s answers and have done the after talk that evidently follows, the question will be swiped to the left to make room for the next one.

During the questions, the level of intimacy gradually builds up. You start with easy questions, such as if you’d like to be famous and why, but soon enough you’ll find yourself answering questions about the way you were raised, what things you are dreaming about and reliving your most embarrassing moments.

This experiment was supposed to take a few hours tops, but at 01:30 we were still sitting on a bench outside going through some of the questions. During the answers I had come to realize several points about the person I’ve been sharing the biggest things in my life with.

I thought at this point I had surely heard all of his stories, but these questions proved both of us wrong. When he talked about particular things in his childhood, I suddenly understood him better as a parent. I saw where he was coming from and why he thought and did things certain way. When we talked about our dreams and fears, there were surprises on both ends and when we praised each other and gave thanks to each other, we were both definitely happier and more in love with each other than before. But a fair warning: we also stirred some mud that we had nearly forgotten about. Because we know each other so well, we didn’t let the other get off the hook so easily with superficial answers.

Image: pixabay.com

In the end, swimming so deep was purifying, albeit we caught some mud on the way. Luckily, years together had taught us to let that dilute, until we were back to clear waters again.

The last task was to stare into each other’s eyes for four minutes. It made me realize how hard it is to concentrate for so long on such an intimate act. How little time did we actually take to do such small efforts that could bring us back to each other so much faster? When I looked at him so intently, I saw our children in his face, I saw his vulnerability, his love and I saw myself.

Although the questions are meant for people looking to fall in love, but from our experience I can also say they are excellent questions for couples who think they know each other, too. The process will definitely add an extra touch of intimacy to the relationship.

For many it might seem natural that relationships to remain close and loving over the years take a lot of work from both participants, but I’m sure there are also those who might have overlooked this fact, too. If you’re looking to reconnect with your partner, I can definitely recommend trying this out. If you’re in a fully committed, loving relationship, you should still try this one out.

If you walk out with anything from this article, let it be this: Great relationships aren’t just naturally great. It’s the continuous, genuine effort by both participants that makes them great.

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Help Delft MaMa help to keep our community as strong as always

“When I first set foot in Delft, second thing after visiting the real state agency to sign the contract for our apartment in the Market square, was visiting the midwifery practice.
Right there, pinned on the wall, among all the other leaflets in a language back then illegible for me, I found THE one in English. It was shining brighter than the others. Maybe because it was written in English? Maybe because it read: “Your community in Delft” and I so much needed a “community in Delft”? Whatever the reason, I was very grateful to find such welcoming and inviting piece of paper with a purple teddy on the front page.
Three years have passed since this initial experience, but I still treasure this moment.
After almost two years of involvement with Delft MaMa, I want nothing else for all the newcomers in town to come across one of the leaflets of our institution and make their hearts jump with joy. They, like us back in the day, deserve to be and feel truly welcomed, because this is the very reason why founder Lucie Cunningham created this community 9 years ago.
To me there is nothing as rewarding as helping back.”
Read more

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Dutch traits

“Zuinig zijn” and other Dutch traits

Many of you have younger children. Being a mom of a just turned 12 year old, it’s another story in the book of parenthood. That is not only because my now officially teenager is getting sometimes fussy and hormonal, but also because you start again seeing your life and surrounding through the eyes and comments of such a teenager. Kids these age not only see and analyse a lot, but they also verbalize their findings very well. Well, at least mine is. And they act also upon their findings, feelings and situations. Trying to find their way through and bled in. And sometimes the way they express themselves puts things into cultural perspectives that you were not very aware off until you have heard them said by your own child. Read more

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